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Presented to the 
LIBRARY of the 
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 

by 



HARRY SUTHERLAND 



AT THE SERBIAN FRONT IN 
MACEDONIA 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 



JUNGLE BYWAYS IN INDIA 
ILLUSTRATED 

STALKS IN THE HIMALAYAS 

ILLUSTRATED 



THE BODLEY HEAD 



AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 
IN MACEDONIA 

BY E. P. STEBBING 

ILLUSTRATED WITH PHOTOGRAPHS 
BY THE AUTHOR 



LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD 
NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY 
TORONTO: S. B. GUNDY. MCMXVII 



TO 

H.R.H. THE CROWN PRINCE OF SERBIA 
AND HIS SOLDIERS 

A GALLANT BAND OF BROTHERS WHO ARE FIGHTING 
MAGNIFICENTLY AND DOGGEDLY AGAINST 
DESPERATE ODDS THIS LITTLE 
BOOK IS DEDICATED IN 
SYMPATHY AND 
ADMIRATION 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTBR PASS 

I. I JOIN UP 1 

II. On a Transport to Salonika .... 7 

III. Salonika, August, 1916 27 

IV. In Salonika: G.H.Q. and Others ... 39 

V. Salonika and Mikra Bay 49 

VI. Some Description op the Country in which the 

Western Armies were to operate ... 58 

vii. to ostrovo in charge op an advance party . 65 

VIII. Transport Work in Macedonia .... 79 

IX. Camp Ostrovo. The Battle op Gornicevo . 96 

X. Getting up the Camp. The Fall of Florina . 108 

XI. The Camp settling in. Storming op Kajmakt- 

CALAN BY THE SERBIANS 125 

XII. The Work op the Hospital .... 143 

XIII. Fine Work op the S.W. Hospital Ambulances . 154 

XIV. The Battlefield of Kajmaktcalan . . .175 
XV. Our Serbian Friends 188 

XVI. The French Front on the Monastir Plain . 199 

XVII. The First Assault of the Kenali Lines . . 209 

XVIII. The Battlefields of Florina and Banitsa . 226 
XIX. The Operations of the Allies on the Western 

Wing, July to November, 1916 . . . 236 

vii 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 
AND MAP 



to face page 

The Barren, Stony Summit op the Great Kajmaktcalan 



Mountain Frontispiece 

Map illustrating Operations op Serbian and French 

Armies in Macedonia 1 

Keady for German Submarines. The Gun on board the 

Transport . . . 14 

The British and the German Pattern op Life-belt 

properly adjusted 14 

The Scottish Women going into Flocca's for Afternoon 

Tea 52 

The Bridgeless via Enagtia on the Salonika Plain . 52 

Camp Ostrovo. The Tents of the Hospital Personnel. 52 

Banitsa, in the Macedonian Mountains .... 60 

Types of the Inhabitants of the Macedonian Villages 64 

The Macedonian Donkey ....... 64 

Market Day in Vodena ....... 70 

The Quaint Medieval Town of Vodena .... 70 

The Entrance to Vodena 72 

Ostrovo, with the Kajmaktcalan Mountains at the Back 72 

Camp of the Advance Party, after Arrival at Ostrovo 76 

The Unit picknicked for some Days after Arrival at 

Camp Ostrovo 7G 

is 



x LIST OP ILLUSTRATIONS 

TO PACE PAGR 

Db. Scott and S.W.H. Ambulance at the Gornicevo 

Krusograd Road Dressing Station .... 98 

Effect of Serbian Gun-fire 98 

The Barbed Wire Entanglement after the Capture of 

the Gornicevo Ridge by the Serbians . . . 102 

The Shell of the Whitehouse on the Gornicevo Crest 106 

Wounded Serbians getting into Carts .... 106 

The French Aviation Ground 126 

French Transport going up Kajmaktcalan . . . 126 

The Bundles of Kit belonging to the Women . . 130 

The Carpenter's Shop 130 

Carrying the Serbian Dead to the Little Cemetery . 130 

A Russian Infantry Regiment en route to the Monastir 

Plain 134 

Russian Infantry Regimental Transport . . .134 

H.R.H. the Crown Prince of Serbia on Kajmaktcalan . 138 

The Monastir Plain near Florina 138 

Colonel Stojchitch in Upper Line of Trenches . . 140 

The Scottish Women's Hospital at Ostrovo . . . 144 

A Portion of One of the Wards filled with Wounded 

Serbs 148 

Serbian Wounded brought down from the Dressing 

Station on Kajmaktcalan 148 

Wounded Serbians at the Gornicevo Dressing Station 152 

Gornicevo Dressing Station with Serbian Medical 

Officers 152 

The late Mrs. Harley, Sister of Lord French . . 156 

Colonel A. J. Stojchitch, wounded on Kajmaktcalan, 

arriving at the hospital 156 

Through the Swirling Dust in a Deep, Narrow, Gloomy 

Defile on the Great Kajmaktcalan . . . .160 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS xi 

TO FACE PAGE 

A Common Sight on the Mountain Tracts of Macedonia 160 

The C.M.O. and Miss Bedford at the Entrance to Camp 

Ostrovo 164 

Unloading Ford Ammunition Vans at Krusograd Dump. 170 

A Stripped Ford Van. The M.T. Subaltern's Patrol Cab 170 

Wounded Serbians being brought back from the Firing 

Line 172 



The M.T. Camp at Krusograd Village .... 172 

Bulgarian Trenches at Kajmaktcalan partially oblite- 
rated by Shell Fire 180 

One of the Upper Line of Trenches on the Summit of 



Kajmaktcalan 180 

Serbian Officers and the Author on the Edge op the 

Crest of Kajmaktcalan 182 

A Serbian Eoyal Engineer Officer surveying on the 

Crest of Kajmaktcalan 182 

H.R.H. the Crown Prince of Serbia inspecting the 

Hospital of the S.W.H. at Ostrovo Camp . . 192 

The Mountain Camp of H.R.H. the Crown Prince of 

Serbia 192 

The Western End of Banitsa Village . . . .202 

Gornicevo Village, from the West . . . .202 

A Limber of a Big French Battery .... 212 

A Battery of Big French Guns 212 

General Sarrail and Staff watching the Attack on the 

Kinali Line 218 

French Cavalry on the Way to enter Monastir . . 244 

The Transport Officer 244 



AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 
MACEDONIA 



AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 
IN MACEDONIA 



CHAPTER I 

I JOIN UP 

Transport officer to a unit of the Scottish Women's 
Hospitals going out to Salonika. This was the job 
which Dame Fortune flung to me after two weary years 
spent in attempting to persuade generals, colonels, 
and even majors, to give me a temporary job on active 
service during the few months' leisure each year which 
a post in a University allows one. 

The billet thus fortuitously secured proved both 
novel — very novel for a man in many ways — and at- 
tractive. For the fickle goddess took us under her 
wing ; instead of remaining at the base at Salonika, the 
Women's Hospital went up to the front and remained 
there or thereabouts. Of this more anon. 

The hospital was to be a field one under canvas, and 
my job was to go out in charge of the equipment, which 
was being despatched in a transport, endeavour to 
prevent half the stuff getting stolen whilst being 
landed at Salonika, of which I gathered on all 

B 



2 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



sides that the chances would be about 5 to 1 against 
me, and put up the camp on the site allotted to us. 
Having spent a number of years in India, and a con- 
siderable portion of most of them in camp, the job I 
considered to be well within my powers (all but the 
Greek part of it) once I had got the material safe on 
board, and bien entendu provided always a German 
submarine did not bag us. But of a hospital equipment 
outside the tents I was woefully ignorant. Some of my 
instructions on this score were rather alarming. The 
bales and boxes, etc., were to be sent direct to the docks 
from the firms supplying the goods by, so far as I could 
make out, almost every railway line in the country. More- 
over they could not be started off until the Admiralty 
let us know the name of the port and transport fixed 
upon ; and they were to go " goods." I foresaw trouble. 

I said good-bye one afternoon in Edinburgh, an 
extraordinary collection of tools — all loose — being 
thrust into my arms at the last moment. " To open 
boxes with — you'll want them, you know." May be, 
I thought, but I didn't see myself walking down Princes 
Street with them under my arm — even when wrapped 
in a piece of brown paper of quite inadequate size to 
conceal them. 

" And you'll be sure not to forget the disinfector 
and washing machine. They won't be able to do 
anything without those." — " Quite so, I'll remember ; 
good-bye." But I didn't know— hadn't the foggiest 
notion what either looked like. I discovered from the 
lists that one weighed about 1J tons, and was a hideous 
piece of machinery by all accounts. 

However, I was off and that was all that really 
mattered. The fun began at the docks. " Just four 



T JOIN UP 



3 



days to get everything aboard," was my greeting there ; 
" the transport leaves at 7 p.m. on the 4th day." And 
nothing had yet arrived — not even the tents, which 
were being supplied by a local firm. Space will not 
permit me, nor would it be of enthralling interest, to 
detail the perspiring (it was very hot) and strenuous 
time I spent in the collection of that equipment. I 
learnt the docks and their ways and methods in war 
time. I gleaned a lot of knowledge about goods sheds, 
goods trains and railway management, and I made 
several hurried, nauseous and haunting diversions into 
the purlieus — and very dirty and smelly purlieus they 
were — of that great city in search of the trucks bringing 
the disinfector and washing machine — mangle, a corporal 
of the dockers' battalion told me I should call it : said his 
mother had one. None of his officers knew anything 
more of these machines than I did myself. 

I lost one, the only, opportunity I had of having a 
mangle described to me. I was packed in a tram, on 
a sultry afternoon, in company with a number of fat 
washerwomen and their babes, on my way to a purlieu. 
They perspired freely. So great was my discomfort 
that it was only afterwards that the inspiration came to 
me that I might have ascertained from them the lines 
upon which a washing machine was built. 

Both these objects were ultimately retrieved. I 
remember the arrival of the washing machine. The 
aforesaid little corporal rushed into the A.S.C.'s small 
office at the dock. " The mangle has come, Sir ; she's 
come," breathlessly. We hurried out, I wondering 
why a mangle was of feminine gender. So she had, 
but even then she was only a "number," for she was 
decorously veiled in a huge packing case. And the 



4 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



disinfector arrived later in the same guise. So I was 
still no wiser on the subject of their looks. 

The days had not passed without anxious moments. 
The first and greatest was when we learnt that a ship's 
ton differed from the ordinary ton, in fact was a space 
ton and not a weight ton. Our impedimenta would 
take nearly double the space tonnage allotted to us in 
the transport. Only half the equipment could therefore 
be taken. After some agonizing hours — for if we did 
not get it off in this transport Heaven only knew when 
we should go, it being war time — this difficulty was 
adjusted. But there were others, and not the least was 
over myself. It came about in this fashion. 

There was apparently some difficulty about accommo- 
dation. The transport had only room for two officer 
passengers, as she was purely a cargo ship. She was 
to go round to another port to take on board M.T. 
(Mechanical Transport) motor cars and lorries, two 
officers and thirty men. I apparently was unexpected, 
as all the hospital personnel were to go out in a hospital 
ship. It was imperative that I should accompany the 
equipment in case it was dumped out at Malta, a not 
unusual fate I was told, or even Alexandria, and there 
left piled high on a quay till a ship could be found to 
carry it on to its destination. 

In accordance with orders, I reported myself to the 
Military Embarkation Officer on the morning of my 
arrival. No orders had been received about me, but I 
was told that definite instructions had arrived on the 
subject of the personnel. No woman would be allowed 
to embark on the transport. Arrangements had already 
been made for the two men mechanics (motor and 
X-ray — the only other men besides myself attached 



I JOIN UP 



5 



to the unit), who would be quartered on the troop 
deck. 

On the third morning I reported as usual. 

" I think," said the Colonel, " that orders regarding 
this officer have been received." 

" Yes, Sir," said his chief of staff. " A telegram has 
arrived from the War Office." He proceeded to read it 
out : " Provided the officer in question wears breeches 
he may proceed in the transport — not otherwise." 

A suppressed laugh went round, and even the colonel, 
a particularly dry individual, found it difficult to keep 
a straight face. 

" Well, Major," said the M.E.O. dryly, " I think 
looking me over — " yes I think we may say that this 
officer wears breeches ; though to be sure," he added, 
" that don't count for much nowadays " ! 

In my innocence I thought this settled the matter. 
Not so. I was to find that the naval embarkation 
people had the final say in the matter. 

I went aboard with my kit some three hours before 
the transport was to sail, only to be summarily ejected, 
kit and all. It was done in a breezy fashion by the 
R.N.R. officer in charge of embarkation. " I told you 
you could not sail in this ship. No orders received," 
he said briefly. — " But I have received my orders." — 
"I've got none from the Admiralty ; " and turning to 
a sailor standing near by he ordered, " Take that gear 
ashore." Down went my kit, and I, after a moment's 
thought, dejectedly followed it. 

It was a crowded and trying three hours which 
followed, and the telephone was kept busy, chiefly by 
my ejector the R.N.R. embarkation officer, whose bark 
was very much more severe than his bite. 



6 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



Finally, after delaying the departure of the ship, the 
necessary permission arrived, and he accompanied me 
and my kit aboard. The ship's officers, who were 
taking the greatest interest in my fortunes, were at 
dinner, and our appearance in the saloon was greeted 
with a shout of laughter. 



CHAPTER II 



ON A TRANSPORT TO SALONIKA 

" Stations " were called, and the officers disappeared 
as I commenced dinner. That over, I lit a cigar, and 
went out on deck. The western sky was flaming yellow 
and the line of hills across the river was darkening. 
It was a perfect summer evening, with a light, soft air 
filled with sweet scents blowing off shore. 

I suppose every one who has sailed from an English 
port bound on the Great Adventure has had very similar 
thoughts to mine as we slowly hauled out from an inner 
dock to an outer, and then into the main channel. 
It was not my first voyage east by any manner of means, 
but how unlike any of its predecessors ! As the tugs 
pulled us slowly through the narrow lock gates and past 
the last quay, I stood curiously watching the men 
standing upon it. They appeared, in some indefinable 
manner, different beings from myself — to be different — 
as if their world and mine, for the time being, were apart. 

We had a glorious run down the coast on the following 
day to our next port in perfect weather, a yachting 
trip of the finest, and the warning we picked up to 
keep a sharp look out for submarines when we arrived 
at the entrance to the Channel had the semblance of 
a practical joke. The beautiful English coast bathed in 



8 



AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



a flood of sunlight lay so close to us, and the calm smiling 
sea looked so safe. It seemed incredible that the 
lurking German submarine could be here. Our curious 
zig-zagging course, and the outward slung boats, were 
the only external evidence one had of the actual state 
of affairs. We got through all right ; but a week later, 
on our final departure for Salonika, had only dropped 
ten miles down the channel when we were pulled up at 
a signal station and spent over forty hours at anchor 
before we were allowed to proceed. By that time a 
fleet of ships of all sizes and classes lay at anchor round 
us, and one's mind went back to the days of convoys in 
the wars of a century ago. It was some time before the 
reason of the delay dawned upon us, but when we 
ascertained that two German submarines were lurking 
at the mouth of the channel we, the passengers, were 
far from comfortable. For the draft had come aboard 
with two subalterns, the junior of whom had much the 
same experience as my own before he was eventually 
allowed on the ship. The unforeseen delay produced 
irritability and restlessness amongst us. Our vote on 
that first day would have been for going on and chancing 
it. Anything but this slow wait as the hours dragged 
wearily along, and we watched the signal station in 
vain for the string of flags which would set us free. The 
pilot,a big fat jovial man of the sea of over sixty summers, 
whom we pestered with questions, held out no hope. 
" We may sail in five minutes or may be here a week, 
I've known it so," was all we could get out of him. 
Our hopes were raised once on the first day. A fussy 
little launch, a dense column of black smoke from her 
funnel streaming out behind her, came tearing down 
channel. Our orders at last, we thought. We watched 



ON A TRANSPORT TO SALONIKA 9 



her. Would she pass us ? No, with a big sweep, she 
came up on our starboard quarter. An officer climbed 
on board and went up to the captain's cabin. " Your 
sailing orders, captain," we heard him say. " We're 
off." But no. They were the Admiralty sailing 
directions which every transport receives and must 
rigidly adhered to. The launch departed, and we 
remained. At length, late in the afternoon of the 
second day, sitting in the saloon over a book, I heard a 
sudden bustle. I ran out on deck, and glanced at the 
signal station. A string of flags fluttered out from the 
halyards. It was our release. 

An hour or so later we dropped the pilot, after he had 
wished us luck in a parting glass, and said farewell to 
England. The captain told us an amusing story anent 
pilots and their ways. He was dropping an Irish pilot 
after going down the Shannon once. " You'll come down 
and have a nip, pilot ? " " Sure and thank you, sorr." 
They adjourned to the cabin, and whiskies and sodas were 
ordered. The steward came up and whispered in the 
captain's ear that they had run out of ship's whiskey, 
and there were only three bottles of some fine old whiskey 
belonging to the captain himself. The latter was very 
annoyed, but ordered a bottle to be opened, though he 
knew what a waste it would be on the pilot, who pre- 
ferred his drinks strong and raw. The bottle was brought 
and the captain, anticipating that the pilot would probably 
take half a tumbler of it, took up the bottle and a glass 
and saying, " Say when, pilot," poured him out a good 
strong nip, but not half a tumbler, and without waiting 
for the pilot to speak filled in some soda and then pre- 
pared his own. " There, pilot, that's something you have 
not had for a long time. That's a fine old whiskey, 



10 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



sixteen years old." The pilot picked up his glass, held 
it up to the light, glanced through it and then at it. 
" Old whiskey is it, sorr ; sixteen years old, sorr ! and 
sure it's very sma' for its age ! " The captain flushed 
up, and then burst into a laugh. " Here, help yourself, 
man, help yourself. You deserve a cask full after that." 

Life in a transport in war time proved less mono- 
tonous than it is on a liner in the piping days of peace. 
We had a particularly interesting voyage in spite of not 
being sent to the bottom. 

The transport was a German prize (one of a dozen) 
captured in Calcutta in August, 1914, whilst on her 
maiden voyage, and has been doing excellent work for 
us ever since. Her officers, now in the service of the 
Indian Government, wore Indian Marine uniform, 
the crew being lascars — with two A.B.'s to man our 
gun. The junior of these passed me going aft the first 
night out. " Good evening, sir," I replied to him, and he 
then added, " I'm off to do my four hours at keeping 
the old flag flying." A query elicited the information 
that he was one of the two gunners who, four hours on 
and four off, stood by the gun night and day, ready to 
deal with submarines. Pretty stiff work. 

The ship, His Majesty's prize ship Fraulein, we will 
call her, was a fine one, only completed in March, 1914, 
some 14,000 tons, with great beam and, consequently 
great cargo capacity and fine, almost luxurious, officers' 
quarters. She had not been touched nor had her name 
been altered (a thousand pities, I think, to change the 
name of a prize ship). The names of the various cabins, 
etc., were all in German, and it sounded queer to read 
over the saloon " Speisezimmer fur offiziere," and so on. 

But the chief source of pride to the officers was the 



ON A TRANSPORT TO SALONIKA 11 



chart room, beautifully fitted, large, with a fine nautical 
library, excellent charts and, according to them, the 
last word in what a merchant vessel's chart-room should 
be. Certainly even to the eye of the landsman the 
Germans appear to know how to build cargo boats. 

She had put into Bordeaux a few weeks previously, 
owing to some breakdown, and the French people had 
swarmed down daily to see her, feasting their eyes on 
the first German prize ship they had seen. The ship, the 
captain said, created quite a furore whilst she was there. 

His lascar crew, however, used the opportunity quite 
differently. They considered they had a grievance over 
their food, and presented the British Consul with the 
following petition. The Consul, having no acquaintance 
with the East or the ways of lascars, failed to make head 
or tail of it, and so made it over to the captain. The 
petition is a gem in its way : — 

" Jusaf Kan, Sarang, 

"Rasulban, Sarang, 

" H.M. Prize Ship . 

" Dear Sir, 

"I am pray to you for I was very sad why not 
Captin give mi very torbol * he never give mi anny 
spices two monte f and never give mi Butter one monte 
all everything sometime give sometime not four monte 
gone and we are very tears cannot work and all every- 
thing sometime give and sometime not and we are very 
poor man." 

But the French were not the only people to show 
satisfaction at this prize. A fat washerwoman, with 
the usual friend and baby, after delivering her goods, 

* Trouble. t Month. 



12 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



was standing looking at the ship in the dock one afternoon 
as we passed by. Said she, " It is a damned good job 
she is there, and I only wish she was chock full of 
Germans, so I does. Why don't you fill her up, mister ? " 
This with a fat chuckle to my companion, an officer of 
the Docker's Battalion, who appeared not a little scan- 
dalised at being addressed in this familiar fashion. I 
smiled broadly. She was so fat and genial and com- 
fortable, and so evidently meant it. 

The officers were a fine lot, good seamen and genial 
and courteous companions. The captain and chief 
officer, men in their prime ; the second officer an old 
P. & 0. officer of over sixty, a " dug out " as he ex- 
pressed it who had quitted the sea twenty years before 
and settled ashore, but had turned out at his country's 
call. 

And how those men worked — had to work ! Double 
watches were kept — two officers always on the bridge, 
four hours on and four off, through the twenty-four 
— there were only four of them, including the captain, 
with, in addition, a purser and a wireless operator. No 
eight hours a day about their work. 

I wonder if we really realise at home what the 
Merchant Service is doing for us all in this war ! After 
leaving England the senior officers never had their 
clothes off nor a good night's rest in their bunks till 
they reached Salonika thirteen days later. As one of 
the officers said one night up on the bridge (the captain 
had given us the run of the ship, including the inestimable 
privilege of the bridges) : " This war is not only being 
won in the trenches, but also on the bridges of the ships 
of the mercantile fleet." He never spoke a truer word. 
To the landsman it is little short of marvellous to watch 



ON A TRANSPORT TO SALONIKA 13 



the way these men proceed day af te* day, sailing through 
known danger zones, carrying their lives in their hands. 
A submarine may be lurking anywhere. Whether they 
keep far out or close to the shore of a neutral or allied 
country, safety cannot be guaranteed by the watchers 
on the fleets. Efficient and constant vigilance, luck, 
and good seamanship are all essential to the completion 
of a single voyage, and in many cases all this care is 
ended by an enemy torpedo. 

An hour spent on the bridge with the officers of the 
watch soon convinces one of the arduous work of the 
seamen nowadays. Night and day, whilst in dangerous 
waters, the sea has to be constantly swept. All vessels 
are narrowly scrutinised, and the officer of the watch 
has to determine whether to alter the course, and give 
suspicious looking vessels a wider berth. When the sea 
is choppy with white horses, the strain becomes greater, 
as the churned water made and left in the wake of a ship 
renders the picking up of a submarine a very difficult 
matter. And most of the merchant vessels are under- 
manned in officers. Added to this there is the thought 
ever present at the back of the mind that a mine may 
send them to the bottom at any moment. 

We always ran at night without lights, and yet we 
met ships ablaze. Some captains won't take the risk 
of being run down. And it is a great risk. We were 
nearly run into twice and only fine seamanship saved 
us in the nick of time on both occasions. A sailor fears 
collision even more than a submarine, and so many 
carry mast lights which can be seen at a considerable 
distance, even from the low level of a submarine. A 
collision is followed by a court martial or, in the case of 
a privately owned ship, often by the loss of his job or 



14 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



the endorsement of the captain's certificate. They are 
hard times for the merchant skippers these days. All 
the greater honour to them that they stick it out, and 
thus play so large a part in helping the Empire to win 
the war. Without them we should crumble up in a few 
weeks. 

Discussing submarines one night at dinner the 
Thames bargeman who had sunk one came up. The 
officers had not heard of his triumphal progress up the 
Thames after the event. " They are a race apart, these 
Thames bargemen," said the captain, and told us the 
following amusing yarn. A barge somewhere near the 
mouth of the Thames got out of hand in the strong tide 
running and swung into an anchored cruiser, grinding 
along her side and taking off her paint. A lieutenant 
on the bridge looked over the side and said, " Now, my 
man. Can't you do better than that ? You're taking 
off my paint." The lieutenant was apparently a very 
mild-tempered specimen of his race, but even he put it 
a little stronger than that. Said the master of the 
barge, looking up, " Hello, mister, and who're you ? " 
" I am lieutenant in charge of this ship, my man." 
" Oh, you h'are h'are you ? Well, mister, I'm capting 
of this 'ere boat. If you 'as anythin' to say you go and 
tell it to your equal, my mate — 'im forrard there, what 
'as 'is shirt 'anging down over his trousers be'ind ! " 

A voyage on board a transport, especially a cargo 
transport such as the Fraulein, has not much resem- 
blance to one on a luxurious liner. True, we were 
lucky as the captain kept a very good table and had 
some first-class wine on board. But there were no frills, 
no marble baths and hot-water taps ; sanitary arange- 
ments, being German, were none too good. No snowy 




READY FOR GERMAN SUBMARINES — THE GUN ON HOARD THE TRANSPORT 




THE BRITISH (ON THE SOLDIER) AND GERMAN (ON THE SAILOR) PATTERN OF 
LIFE BELT PROPERLY ADJUSTED. THE GERMAN PATTERN IS SEEN TO FIT 
MORE CLOSELY TO THE BODY. A PILE OF LIFE BELTS IS SEEN ON THE HATCH 
TO RIGHT. THEY REMAINED IN THIS POSITION THROUGHOUT THE VOYAGE 



ON A TRANSPORT TO SALONIKA 15 



decks and easy lounges, and, added to this absence of 
luxury, was the necessity of closing up all lighted cabins 
after dark. And this in the summer in the Mediter- 
ranean was no joke. There was no fan in our cabin or 
in the saloon, and for coolness' sake the long evenings 
(we dined ship-fashion at 6.30) had to be spent doing 
nothing on deck, since reading in a hermetically 
sealed cabin was an impossibility. I passed my evenings 
on the upper bridge keeping a look-out for submarines. 
We had a fine moon with us all through the Mediter- 
ranean. Beautiful as those nights were, we had magni- 
ficent weather the whole way, the officers grumbled 
sorely at the moon as it intensified the submarine danger, 
it being next to impossible to pick up a periscope in the 
area of sea flooded with the radiance of the moon. 
Anxious nights were passed upon that bridge — to me, a 
landsman with no responsibility, they were fascinating. 

Boat stations had been fixed before we dropped the 
last pilot, we three officers having charge of a boat 
apiece, or rather of the soldiers allotted to it. Boat 
stations were called several times, and getting into a 
life waistcoat brought the actual position rather vividly 
to the imagination. I remember that the sight of the 
naval gunner going to his watch on the gun wearing a 
lifebelt, just after we dropped the pilot in the Channel, 
was rather startling. The lifebelts, the British pattern, 
left much to be desired. We had two kinds on board. 
The British is made of wads of flat cork sewn into a 
canvas covering in separate compartments, all belts 
being of a size, so that they really only fitted a big man ; 
for smaller men the ends have to overlap. This over- 
lapping means that it is very difficult to tie the belt on 
tightly, and if not tight to the body it works up to the 



16 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



mouth and drowns its wearer ; or if the tape round the 
neck is too long, and it will lengthen when it gets wet, 
the belt slips down over the legs and hampers the man or 
turns him upside down. In the crowded leave-boat in 
which I crossed from France I doubt whether 5 per cent, 
of the belts were put on in such a manner as to have proved 
serviceable had their owners suddenly found themselves 
in the sea.* The German pattern we had aboard is 
a better one, though experts probably hold that this is 
not the last word in this important matter. The com- 
partments in these are rilled with cotton wool, their 
covering being a fine brown canvas. Being of wool 
they fit much closer to the body, as the photograph 
depicts, and so are not so liable to slip. This belt is said 
to keep a man weighing 38 lbs. (the average weight in 
water) afloat for 36 hours. Of course the new life 
waistcoats are good, but their cost puts them out of 
court for general use aboard ship. 

The voyage through the Bay was uneventful. Beyond 
being picked up by a British destroyer or two there was 
no excitement save off Cape Finisterre one evening, 
when from the upper bridge the captain saw, to his 
indignation, a broad beam of light issuing from the troop 
deck. Some repair work was being done by the engineers ! 
But why at night ? No answer was forthcoming. The 
captain was furious. It is positively extraordinary 
how careless or callous people become on this subject of 
lights if it interferes with their momentary comfort. 
The captain said that every voyage there would be 
surely one or more instances of it. On one voyage 

* Since this was written I have crossed to France and back 
again. The new pattern now in use on the Channel boats is an 
immense improvement on the old. But I do not think it comes up 
to the German belt. 



ON A TRANSPORT TO SALONIKA 17 



early in the war he was on a transport carrying 3000 
troops. She was a big passenger steamer with rows of 
portholes in her sides. They were in the Red Sea, 
and at that stage it was a danger zone, the whereabouts 
of the Germans being still unknown, all not having been 
rounded up at that time. Late at night, in his watch 
he looked aft from the bridge and there lay a broad beam 
of light issuing from one of the portholes amidships. 
" Enough to give us away a dozen times over." In a ship 
of that size it was impossible to say from which porthole 
the light was coming, and a long search failed to detect 
the delinquent, the light being suddenly put out when the 
search started below. Three thousand lives endangered, 
through the carelessness and selfishness of one person. 
" I'd have triced him up and given him a dozen if I had 
caught him and had had my way," said the captain. 
" We'll reach Gibraltar during the night and will have to 
turn and run back a bit," the captain announced a couple 
of days later. " We are not allowed to go in at night time 
now, and we can't hang round or we'll get a torpedo." 
I was up on the bridge doing an hour's submarine 
searching. I heard a yarn that morning so illustrative 
of our red tape. A ship received orders to proceed to 
Port Said, take in a lot of water and carry it to Aden. 
On arrival at Port Said the captain went ashore and 
reported himself. " What are you here for ? " " Have 
to take in water for Aden, Sir." " We've no water for 
you here. You had better proceed to Aden." " Very 
good, Sir. Will you give me that in writing ? " The 
document was duly forthcoming, and the ship proceeded 
to Aden. When off that place she was signalled, 
" Proceed on your voyage." The captain, taken back, 
signalled, " Where ? " " Haven't you got orders ? " 



18 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



"No." The next signal appeared. " Captain to come 
ashore and report." On arrival, " Well, captain, what on 
earth do you mean ? Don't you know where you are 
going ? " The captain stated his case. " Well, don't 
you know at all where you may be bound f or ? " "I have 
private advices that we are to go to Calcutta." " Private 
advices ! What's that ? " The captain mentioned the 
name of the firm who were running things for the Govern- 
ment. " Never heard of 'em." " But, Sir, they are 
working these ships for Government." " Don't know 
anything about that. You will wait here for orders." 
And they spent two days at Aden doing nothing, and were 
then ordered to proceed to Calcutta ! 

I was in the captain's cabin that night before turning 
in. This is how his native steward arranges his table 
nightly for possible emergencies. A huge night muffler 
plus a silk handkerchief are flanked by a revolver and 
two packets of cartridges. Hard by are four large 
packets of rifle cartridges, a hundred rounds, with rifle 
hanging handy in their neighbourhood. Next to the 
cartridges is the lifebuoy waistcoat, and close to it a long 
double-breasted overcoat. On the corner of the table 
is the smoking outfit. This array having been placed 
out each night in exactly the same order, the steward 
retires to sleep the sleep of the just, confident that his 
master is provided with the wherewithal to tackle 
German submarines. A hundred rifle and fifty revolver 
cartridges for a man who would probably be far too busy 
to fire one was no bad armament ! 

All are not thus prepared. We passed a sister ship 
to-day, and her 4* 7" gun aft was tightly cased up in 
tarpaulins. If a submarine had suddenly appeared she'd 
have gone to the bottom before her gun could have been 



ON A TRANSPORT TO SALONIKA 19 



brought into play. Truly, some skippers are queer fish. At 
the time we were giving a wide berth to a wind jammer. 
Harmless as they look, they are one of the dangers of 
the seas at present. It is a favourite device of the 
German submarine captains, or was as long as it paid 
them, to lie alongside one, put a couple of men with 
rifles aboard to overawe the crew, and then lie in wait 
till an unsuspecting steamer came along within reach, 
sally out and torpedo her. Passing Cape Sparta we heard 
that one of the largest of the captured German Calcutta 
ships was lost here afterwards. She was a huge cargo 
boat, but had been built for conversion into a raider. 
Her bitts were fitted for machine guns, the caps screwing 
off. Aft round the winches she had emplacements for 
6-inch guns, with racks for rifles, an ammunition 
magazine, and so on. She was condemned at once, 
and never taken into a prize court. 

It is perhaps needless to say that no ships save 
hospital ships follow the ordinary Mediterranean route 
of peace time. Certainly I saw more of the Mediter- 
ranean on this voyage than any of my others have 
shown me. I naturally do not propose to describe our 
route. We altered our course from time to time, 
according to sealed instructions with the captain, 
zig-zagged about on occasions when in notoriously 
dangerous parts. I remember one morning. We were 
close to land, and for an hour before breakfast a 
great argument waged as to whether there was a sub- 
marine inshore of us and keeping pace with us. The 
argument was never settled. The chief engineer, a 
cautious Glasgow man, maintained he was right and we 
thought we had made it out ; but the ship's officers 
would say nothing definite. 



20 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



One of the numerous dodges of the German sub- 
marines is to cover the periscope with a cask, empty 
provision box or fish hamper, a hole being cut in one 
side to allow of vision. They then move gently on with 
the current, and await the approach of an unsuspecting 
steamer. In one instance one thus disguised was 
spotted by a ship's captain proceeding against the 
current. The captain quickly changed his course and 
sheered off, leaving the German submarine commander 
to learn to do better at his next effort. 

Before we reached Salonika we picked up a wireless, 
telling us that a ship had been sunk off Cape Bon just 
twenty-four hours after we had passd. 

We had seen something of the appalling delays 
which took place in unloading and loading ships our- 
selves, and were to see more on arrival, and the yarns 
going round amongst the men whose calling is on the sea 
are innumerable and almost incredible, were not our 
blundering methods in war time, before we get into 
our stride, so well known to us all. Each port fought 
against the others at first, endeavoured to undo what 
the other had done, and considered itself the only one 
on earth. For instance, a certain ship was ordered to 
be fitted for camels at A. She took in 800 tons of sand, 
had the necessary fittings put in, and took the camels 
aboard and was ready to proceed. An inquiry about 
the ship was received from B. " Loaded up with camels, 
Sir, and ready to proceed," was the answer. " Camels, 
camels ; who said camels ? Have 'em taken out at once 
and ship sent here." The camels were unloaded and ship 
proceeded to B, and reported arrival. " What ship ? 
How is she fitted ? " " Fitted for camels at A, Sir." 
" At where ? \\ " A." " Oh, damn ! Bullocks, she's 



ON A TRANSPORT TO SALONIKA 21 



required for bullocks. Fit her up." She was fitted 
with bullock stalls, and then sent out to wait in the 
harbour. No bullocks had arrived. A day or two 

elapsed. Said H.Q., " What's the doing ? Where 

is she ? " " Out in the harbour, Sir, fitted for bullocks 
and waiting their arrival." " Bullocks, bullocks ; we've 
no bullocks. What the devil is she fitted for bullocks 
for ? She ought to have been fitted for horses. It's 
horses we want a ship for." Now the bullock fittings 
were for large bulls. They would be too large for horses. 
They were torn out of the ship, horse fittings put in, and 
at last she really did get away with a load of horses ! 
This is only one of many stories going the round. I 
heard others even worse, if that is possible. But we've 
cleared out the Augean stable of incompetency now. 
It was inevitable at first, caught as we and our Allies 
were, unprepared. The following story is more amusing. 
A certain German ship lying at a British port was seized 
at the outbreak of war. Orders arrived from a senior 
officer at another port that the ship was to be sent there 
immediately with all her cargo. It was known at both 
ports, these things leak out so quickly, that she had a 
large amount of fine German bottled lager beer aboard. 
The senior port was anxious to get hold of this. The 
junior port had, however, strong doubts, or pretended 
to have, as to whether the beer would ever arrive at the 
other place, and so unloaded the lot before despatching 
the ship. The senior port, licking its lips at the thought 
of iced lager (it was the hot-weather season), went on 
board the ship on arrival, and ordered the beer to be at 
once sent ashore. The disappointment was severe ; 
also the language of the telegrams dispatched to the 
junior port on the subject was scarcely official. But 



22 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



the latter place, solacing itself with iced beer, was able 
to bear with equanimity the sulphurous heat of the 
telegraphic correspondence. 

Of course we have no ship's bells, bugles or dressing 
bells nowadays. All these frills have been stopped, 
and we sneak along without advertising our presence. 
When we ran into a wall of fog, for instance, as we did 
on several nights, although some ships in the neighbour- 
hood — neutrals perhaps — loosed off whistles, not so 
the Fraulein. Her somewhat raucous voice could have 
been heard for miles, and she kept demurely silent and 
trusted to chance coupled with skill to protect her. 
But the days were gorgeous — ideal Mediterranean 
yachting weather. Leaning over the taffrail one after- 
noon with the old second officer he said, apropos of 
nothing, his best stones came out like that : " Did I tell 
you the yarn of the London cabby in the days before the 
taxi ? I drove down to Fenchurch Street in a growler. 
I had a uniform case with me, but was not going to sea, 
and was in mufti. I paid the man on arrival. He took 
the coin, looked first at it and then at me in cabby's 
well-known disparaging way, as if I'd given him a penny. 
I knew I had overpaid the man, but I turned to a railway 
official and asked him what the fare was, mentioning 
the place I had come from. His reply proved me correct. 
I was turning away when the cabby spoke. I looked 
round. He had bent down and with a hand to his 
mouth was leering down at me. 'I say, mister, I hope 
your ship gets sunk.' " 

I heard many amusing yarns about the difficulties 
which confronted the Government of India in finding 
officers to man the German prizes they captured at the 
outbreak of war. To some extent the exploits of the 



ON A TRANSPORT TO SALONIKA 23 



Emden helped them, as the services of officers from sunk 
ships were available. But they got some queer customers 
from the tramps. In one case the command of one of the 
ships was offered to a very rough diamond, a Yorkshire 
man who had never been in anything but a tramp all 
his life. Ships' officers in tramps do not have personal 
stewards to look after them. He now became an Indian 
Marine officer. Meeting a brother officer of that service 
soon after, the latter asked him how he liked his new 
ship. " Why, mon, I likes her fine in some ways, but 
they've given me a blooming valet." " Oh yes, Indian 
Marine officers always have a native servant." " Well, 
mon, I've got no use for 'im. I like my cabin to myself. 
Why the first day he wanted to put on my blooming 
trousers for me!" 

To the joy of all on board we got past Malta without 
being called in. " Proceed," was the laconic answer 
to our wireless message, reporting ourselves. This 
meant a saving of at least twenty-four hours, as all ships 
must make the entrance to the Grecian Archipelago 
after dark, owing to the great danger from lurking 
submarines. There is one small red light at the entrance 
which can only be picked up in clear weather at about 
, seven miles. If misty, you are on it before you know 
where you are. The captain said it is like the Irish 
lights, which used to be known in nautical phraseology 
as " two darks and a dim." In this connection he told an 
amusing experience of his own whilst a youngster on a 
voyage to the Irish coast in a small vessel, of the genus 
tramp I imagine. He was on the bridge, the ship proceed- 
ing dead slow, when he suddenly saw a light alongside. 
He shouted some unprintable language through a mega- 
phone as he sheered off. He guessed it was the lightship 



24 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



lie had been on the look-out for. An injured voice, 

also through a megaphone, came back, " What the 

are you in such a hell of a hurry ? Can't you give us time 
to trim her ? " The Irish idea of unshipping the light 
of a lightship in the middle of the night to trim 
it was too much for the youngster and left him 
speechless. 

We entered on the most dangerous part of the journey 
this night, after doing a lot of zig-zagging during the day. 
The reason for zig-zagging is due to the fact that sub- 
marines — enemy submarines — lie below the surface at 
a safe distance in the tracks taken by ships, and can see 
them perfectly as they pass over them. They then 
rise and follow in the wake of the ship, which they can 
also see without coming to the surface, until near enough 
to discharge a torpedo. Zig-zagging upsets this little 
manoeuvre. 

I think we had all got used to the idea of submarines 
by now, save perhaps some of the Tommies, and were 
not particularly nervous. As regards the Tommies, 
I happened to make some light remark to one of the 
A.B.'s that now perhaps he'd get his wish and have a shot 
at a German submarine, which I knew from several 
conversations with him he was dying to do. A Tommy 
standing by ejaculated, " My Gawd, sir, I hope we shan't 
see any ! " There was one scare that night. The ship 
had just made a big curve, and looking back at the wake 
in the moonlight the captain felt sure he saw a peri- 
scope. He was about to give the alarm to the gunner, 
when a second look convinced him and the officer with 
him that it was only the play of the tricky moonlight 
on the curving wake. And so it apparently turned out ; 
but the incident is worth mentioning as it shows what a 



ON A TRANSPORT TO SALONIKA 25 



constant strain, minute by minute, the bridge officers 
have to go through nowadays. 

We had not been left unattended up to now, but it 
was nothing to the interest the fair Fraulein aroused in 
the navies of France and England as she plodded her 
way through the Greek Islands. She was overwhelmed 
with attentions by which I fear she was in no wise 
flattered, callous maiden that she was. This morning 
we were picked up in a dangerous stretch between two 
islands by two small cockle-shells flying the French flag. 
Patrol boats they called themselves, each armed with 
a gun in the bows and aft half as long as themselves. 
They steamed on either quarter and dropped us as soon 
as we got through the channel, and turned their attention 
to two homeward-bound ships. About lunch time we 
reached a wider channel, and were picked up by a British 
destroyer and a three-funnelled sloop, and they escorted 
us through. The Turks had apparently been sowing 
mines about here recently, and we had been told to keep 
our eyes open. I confess I did not like this bit of informa- 
tion. An ungentlemanly thing a mine. Does not give 
one time to look about one. The sloop dropped us without 
a farewell as soon as we got through the channel, but the 
cocky little destroyer stuck to us, dropping from the 
port bow to port quarter. She was quite close, one 
could have flicked a biscuit on to her deck, but the 
Fraulein, stolidly and sturdily ploughing her way along, 
took no notice of her polite attentions. At a certain 
point the Fraulein altered her course, as per sailing 
instructions, but her spick and span little escort took no 
notice until it looked as if we should run her down, when 
she starboarded her helm. She didn't forget the 
incident, for some while after she signalled us to keep our 



26 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



course, and roused the Fraulein somewhat this time. 
She didn't like being treated as a poor country cousin 
by her fine-feathered little town relation ; but she 
ported her helm obediently. The escort left us after 
dinner, but with no kiss of adieu. The landsmen felt 
as if they were parting with safety on her departure. 

But it was not for many hours apparently. As I 
turned in my last thoughts were uncomfortable ones on 
the subject of mines. The next morning at nine a.m. we 
entered Salonika harbour. We had been escorted 
throughout the night, surrounded in fact, by trawlers, 
mine-sweepers, and destroyers, and a destroyer took us 
in. Having got us thus far, they did not want to lose 
us. Others had gone even at the twelfth hour, and 
they were careful. As I looked out at six we appeared 
to be in the midst of a fishing fleet. It looked like peace 
time. They were fishing right enough, but it was for 
mines. 

As we steamed slowly up the harbour the boats were 
slung in, after thirteen days slung outwards. The voyage 
was over. 



CHAPTER III 



SALONIKA, AUGUST, 1916 

We had dropped anchor between the British Admiral's 
flagship and a hospital ship. The latter turned out 
to be the vessel which had brought out the personnel 
of the Scottish Women's hospital, as also that of one 
of the R.A.M.C. hospitals of 1000 beds provided by the 
British Government for the Serbians. Steaming with 
lights ablaze and surrounded with all the luxury of a first- 
class liner, they had had a giddy time of it on the way out. 

I went across to her in the afternoon and met Mrs. 
Harley, who had brought out another S.W.H. unit, a 
transport column of motor ambulances also for the Ser- 
bians, Miss Jack, the Administrator of our unit, and 
one of the doctors, Dr. Lewis. Half the unit had left 
the ship for a temporary camp out at Mikra Bay, to the 
east of Salonika. But the best and quite unexpected 
item of news announced to me was that the unit was to 
go up to the Serbian front to a place called Ostrovo in 
the mountains, instead of remaining at the base at 
Salonika. Dr. Bennett and the Sanitary Officer, Miss 
Gordon, had already gone up with the Chief of the Serbian 
Medical Service, Colonel Sondermeyer, to settle upon the 
site of the camp. It was difficult to credit our luck at 
this piece of news, and I returned to the Fraulein to make 



28 AT THE SEEBIAN FRONT 



the other men envious. Poor old Fraulein — I regret to 
say I was horribly shocked at her very humble and dirty 
appearance when I looked across at her from the snowy 
decks of the luxurious hospital liner. Government have 
no time or money to waste on painting up their transports, 
and her skirts, I mean her sides, so much needed 
freshening up. I found myself apologising for her 
appearance, though I was ashamed to be doing so as she 
had had my whole affections for so long. 

That night the flagship had a show on board and 
the sound of the soft strains of the ship's band playing 
seductive waltzes and the distant sight of girls' 
shimmering drapery 'neath the electric lights drove 
several of us wild with envy — none more so than the 
junior sub. Some of our unit were enjoying themselves 
there, the last frolic they were to have for many a day. 
With the wide circle of lights gleaming on the Salonika 
front and up the hill at the back, the maddening music 
and the softness of the Mediterranean air — it was a most 
voluptuous evening. The more so perhaps because 
war and wounds and death were the present mission of 
us all. I fell asleep to the haunting strains of that band, 
to be awakened later by a very different melody, to wit 
the well-known and almost forgotten " ping ping " of 
the mosquito fiend. I got very little sleep the remainder 
of that night, for they were fierce and hungry these 
iEgean mosquitoes. My complaints at breakfast next 
morning met with scant sympathy, but elicited one of 
the most amusing mosquito yarns I have heard. 

An Irish crew occupied the fo 'castle of a ship newly 
arrived in the East. They were greatly pestered by 
mosquitoes the first night. Driven beyond endurance 
the crew rose as one man and by various devices cleared 



SALONIKA, AUGUST, 1916 29 



the fo 'castle of their tormentors and then went to sleep 
again. One man more bitten than the rest lay awake 
in the dark and after a time saw two fireflies approaching 
him. Jumping up he shouted to his messmates, " Eh, 
mates, wake up, wake up. Begorra ! Damned if the 
blinkin divils are not coming back with lanterns ! " 

Breakfast over we turned our backs on our late lotus- 
eating existence. 

The captain took the senior subaltern and myself 
ashore in his gig. We disembarked at the chief landing 
stage on the front and found ourselves at once in the 
midst of a thronging crowd of many nationalities all 
attired for the business of war, moving in the midst of 
the indescribably brilliant setting of a Mediterranean 
city, European in character, but with an Eastern touch 
given by the numerous slender minarets gleaming 
dazzling white in the hot sunlight against the dark back- 
ground of the hills. The intense light and colouring of 
the scene beggars description* 

According to orders I reported at French G.H.Q. 
I had been warned to expect difficulties and I found them 
at the outset. The pressure in all the war departments 
at this period was tremendous. Reinforcements were 
pouring into Salonika in preparation for an Allied offensive 
against the Bulgars. The first of some Russian brigades 
which were intended to reinforce the French wing had 
arrived a day or two before. The first regiments of 
two Italian divisions which were to reinforce the eastern 
wing in the neighbourhood of the British were being 
landed. Two large Rubertino liners had come in soon 
after dawn this morning, passing close to us, their decks 
packed with troops who cheered enthusiastically as they 
steamed slowly by — cheers which we returned. Whilst 



30 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



I was in the French Medical H.Q. the sounds of bands 
striking up hard by were suddenly heard. Major Julia, 
with his nation's love of military display, jumped up, 
opened the green Venetians, closed to keep out the 
great heat and glare, and adjourned to the balcony. In 
the short, wide street below, running between two great 
blocks of fine buildings all occupied by the French G.H.Q., 
General Sarrail stood waiting to receive the Italian 
regiments and take the salute. Round the corner came 
a French band followed by a column of small wiry men 
in green-blue service kit and trench helmets with a very 
narrow brim — too narrow to afford adequate protection 
against shrapnel was the general verdict. The officers 
carried rifles instead of swords. The men swung by at 
a smart pace and looked a serviceable lot. 

As a result of my interview with the French officers, 
whom I got to know well later, and who were most 
courteous, I understood that the French had their hands 
full at present with landing the Italians and their impedi- 
menta, and that no labour would be available for landing 
my equipment. The ship was to come into a quay the 
next day to unload the lorries and cars and would then 
be sent out into the bay to wait till there was room for 
her to come in again to unload the rest of the cargo. 
The captain had warned me that this would be the course 
followed, and expected to be anchored out in the bay for 
ten days or more before he got in again. 

I was then taken off by the French liaison officer to 
report to the Serbian Medical H.Q. In order to make our 
position intelligible I should say that we were attached to 
the Serbian Army, but that the Serbs took their orders 
from the French, General Sarrail being in supreme com- 
mand in Macedonia, and were dependent on the French 



SALONIKA, AUGUST, 1916 31 



entirely for railway transport, and so on. And the 
French had their hands more than full. At the Serbian 
H.Q., I found several extremely nice Serbian officers of 
the Staff, Colonel Sondermeyer, the chief, being absent 
with Dr. Bennett, our C.M.O., up country, as already 
mentioned. After some talk, French being of course the 
medium, it was agreed that I should go and see the French 
Embarkation Officer in charge of the railway business 
at the docks. It was now nearing twelve. No work is 
done between twelve and three, when the heat is 
reminiscent of the early part of the hot weather in India, 
and I returned to the centre of the town and made my 
first acquaintance with that great meeting place of the 
armies of Macedonia, Flocca's, which has by now 
achieved almost world-wide fame. And it merits it. 
Picture a short length of broad street with vile pave 
giving off from the " front." On either side cafes, their 
little tables and chairs spreading across the pavement 
on either side far out into the street, leaving only a 
fairway some four yards wide for pedestrians. During 
the cafe hours all vehicular traffic was prohibited 
in this length. Imagine each little table surrounded by 
three to five chairs, and all the chairs, many hundreds 
of them, filled with the fighting men of a dozen or more 
nationalities — fighting men at their ease, enjoying the 
period of relaxation, drinking an infinite variety of drinks, 
smoking cigarettes for the most part, and talking shop 
or discussing the latest prima donna (save the mark) at 
the cafS chantants, at the Tour Blanche or Bristol. Fill 
the narrow fairway with a throng of officers and soldiers 
moving slowly up and down, friends suddenly meeting, 
hailing each other with the warmth of the soldier on 
active service and blocking the fairway or promptly 



32 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



hunting for a couple of chairs (and drinks) to hear each 
the other's tale. That is the coup d'ceil Venizelos 
Street would have presented to you at any time between 
11.30 and 2 or again from 4.30 to 7 or 8 p.m. in August, 
1916. And those who saw it and lived the life of it for 
a week or two, are never likely to forget that wonderful 
kaleidoscopic picture. And the most brilliant cafe of 
the lot was Flocca's, chosen who knows by what chance 
as far excellence the officers' cafe, and prosperous with 
a sudden prosperity which only war can bring to its 
fortunate ones. For the soldier in war-time is ever 
prodigal, the duration of life being so problematical, and 
most prodigal of them all I fear were the British. To 
sit at Flocca's for an hour or two was an education in 
itself, and few of those there, very few, could have 
accurately described the nationality and uniforms of the 
many hundreds of warriors gathered festively around 
those little tables. French, Russians and Cossacks, 
Italians, British, Serbian, French colonials, Sinegalese, 
Zouaves, and men from Madagascar — Indians, Annanese, 
Albanians, Macedonians and Greeks, all (with the 
exception of the Greeks, who kept and were left severely 
to themselves) fraternised together in one great com- 
munity of brotherhood, bound by the identity of their 
present interests, the great adventure of war. And if 
it proved difficult to pick out the nationalities of the 
fighting races as they mingled before one, as difficult was 
it to distinguish with any certainty the uniforms of many 
of what I may call the obscurer nationalities. The main 
types were of course easily distinguishable — Russian 
infantry of the line and Cossack ; French of all arms, 
though their headgear differed amazingly, from the 
ordinary kepi through stages of the old glengarry of our 



SALONIKA, AUGUST, 1916 33 

infantry to a tarn o' shanter. Italians in their service 
kit varied but little and were one of almost the only 
nationalities who wore no khaki. For units or indivi- 
duals of all the other services were to be seen in khaki of 
varying shades and thicknesses ; the officers either having 
the roll collar of the British or buttoning up to the neck 
in our old fashion and adorned of course with their own 
national regimental badges. This khaki uniform more 
particularly applied lo units of armies we had been 
clothing. Serbians wore chiefly khaki or the blue-grey 
of the French, but even here both officers and men would 
be seen wearing their old more gaudy uniforms saved 
from the retreat of the preceding year. In fact it was 
this clinging to their old uniforms of peace days or such 
portions of them as they still possessed, whether tunics 
or breeches, even when they had to be supplemented by 
khaki for the remainder, made for the brightness of the 
scene. That street was like a great stage. There goes 
a Russian private in khaki overall, buttonless and caught 
in at waist with a leather belt, blue breeches tucked into 
long, soft leather boots a full " 12 " in size, and flat cap 
with leather peak. French soldiers in the now familiar 
blue-grey service uniforms or in khaki and a variety 
of headgear including picturesque black or blue tarn 
o' shanter. Serbians in rough serge or the Indian khaki 
uniforms of British pattern, no belt, and black heavy 
boots like our fishing brogues with two straps to fasten 
them at the sides, and the blue, rough serge Serbian cap, 
elliptical in shape with a dent down the middle. French 
officers in the light blue service kit with their familiar 
red cap laced with gold and a band of varying colour 
round base, and long boots or gaiters. Or they wore the 
French tropical helmet of hideous conical shape with 

D 



34 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



flat sides — a most unsuitable headgear to fire in, one 
would think ; one often wondered how the soldiers lying 
on the ground managed to shoot at all till they had taken 
it off. Some had enamelled theirs blue, which did not 
add to the beauty of the headgear. Some French 
officers wore the British khaki service kit, Sam Browne 
belt and all. The French either wore medal ribbons or 
medals — there appeared to be no rule — whereas Russians 
invariably wore their medals, whilst the Italians wore 
ribbons. The Serbian officers were very spruce and 
neat, rather after the Austrian or German pattern 
where most had been trained, in blue, khaki or a thick 
grey Melton material, tunics with stiff collars of varying 
colour and flat, stiff broad shoulder straps of silver or 
gold with rank badges in silver or gold. The cap is the 
same shape as the privates', but stiff throughout with 
flat top and the white and red enamelled elliptical 
officers' badge worn in front. Beautiful top-boots, often 
patent leather, or gaiters and boots of dandified English 
make were worn. The British are in khaki to a man — 
Tommy in helmet, shirt, shorts and putties. The officer 
ditto, but with shoulder straps on his shirt bearing his 
rank badges. About this time an order was issued, 
however, which entailed the officer wearing a jacket 
when in the town, the other and cooler kit being used 
for duty only. 

And the medals and decorations. Their number was 
legion, many of them won in the present war from all 
appearances. A youngster — a Russian of no more I 
judged than 26-28 summers — sat next to me one morning. 
He wore four decorations and medals suspended by long 
ribbons to his tunic and two others pendant to button- 
holes. That he had seen service and hard service his 



SALONIKA, AUGUST, 1916 35 



weatherbeaten, determined face well showed. But what 
a time it is for the youth of the fighting nations ! 

Under other and peace-time conditions Salonika 
would be an ordinary Mediterranean town, very 
interesting and picturesque with its long semicircle of 
white and gaudily painted houses stretching from the 
sea front up the hillside, crowned by the old fort, and 
backed by the towering mountains behind. The sea 
front is especially interesting with the vividly painted 
Greek boats moored stern on up against the sea-wall, 
either loading up or unloading, the crew typically Greek, 
handsome and picturesque. Or the chaffering in the 
market in the early morning when the household's 
representatives are to be seen returning with a couple 
of quacking ducks or vociferous fowls held by the legs 
in one hand whilst the other one clasps a variety of 
produce for the day's consumption. But now all these 
amusing peculiarities of a continental town which used 
to catch the eye and hold the imagination when roaming 
abroad in the days of peace scarce distract the attention. 
If one notes them at all they make no impression — no 
lasting impression — on the senses. They no longer arrest 
the eye. For the streets have lost their peace-time 
appearance. They are filled with a motley throng of 
fighting men, and these are either intent on the work of 
the moment or are busily enjoying themselves for a few 
brief hours off from the round of duty under a hot sun 
in the trenches or on the " road," or in office. 

The armies, when not in their own messes — in other 
words whenever they could get the evening off or a night 
or two down from the front — dined in the various 
restaurants or restaurant-cafes in the town, all making 
rapid fortunes. For officers the two chief were Roma's, 



36 AT THE SEKBIAN FRONT 



in rooms above the Fiocca Cafe, and the Tour Blanche. 
At either of these a dinner — it can only be described 
as moderate — could be obtained. And after dinner, 
i.e. about 9 p.m., the Bloods adjourned to the cafe 
chantant at the Tour Blanche or the Bristol, the former 
being the most chic. Here the scene at Fiocca 's was 
repeated but with most of the audience spic and span in 
the smartest of the kit they had brought to the war. 

The show on the stage was about the last word in 
shows of this kind for inanity. And yet the fighting 
man on active service is so little inclined to be critical that 
rapturous applause greeted the efforts of the elderly 
ladies of lean and skinny, almost forbidding, aspect who, 
clad in scanty draperies, appeared, smirked and shrieked, 
when their voices were sufficiently strong, impossible 
ditties and who ever gave an encore whether asked for 
or not. Humorously ludicrous were these turns. And 
yet one did not go to see the performers on the stage, but 
to watch the audience. All nationalities would be 
favoured by the performers in turn, now French, now 
Russian, now English or Italian, and whole-hearted 
applause followed the efforts as each nationality 
recognised its own, or endeavoured to recognise its Ally's 
stunt and applaud it heartily. But these audiences ! 
The performers were of quite secondary importance to 
the audience. The cafe was in the open air, a stage 
fixed up at one end, a row of rough stalls, looking like 
horse-boxes, down either side and the great centre arena 
filled with little tables and chairs occupied by officers and 
men of all nationalities stiting cheek by jowl without 
distinction. Civilians were in a very small minority, 
and these chiefly Greeks. But the Army types ! Of 
Russians alone, there were several easily recognised 



SALONIKA, AUGUST, 1916 



37 



races — the pure Russian, Cossack and Mongolian. 
Serbians, Rumanians and even the Bulgar type from 
the Balkans. Three Chinamen, Annanese, in khaki and 
French grey-blue uniforms with the queer mushroom 
hat, and carrying small black fans (in uniform, mind you), 
strolled past us — nasty customers these to meet when 
roused. Greek officers in immaculate white uniform 
with red or blue collar facings and gold-hilted swords, 
looking very fierce and martial but so out of keeping 
amongst the fighting men, were present. They were 
shortly to be shipped off after the successful Salonika 
" Revolution," which occurred a few days later. A 
table near us maybe taken as a good example of a hundred 
others. Three young Russian officers sat at it drinking 
some fiery liquor, but what it was I could not determine. 
One in a snuff-coloured uniform of a cavalry regiment 
had beautifully made, flexible top-boots which I greatly 
envied. He wore the cross of St. George and another 
medal, and looked ready to go anywhere and do anything 
and had evidently distinguished himself already on one 
of the Russian fronts, although absurdly young. But 
he had the cold steady eyes of the fighter. Next to him 
sat a youngster in khaki uniform of the Russian infantry 
pattern and the usual flat cap. A distinctly Mongolian 
type, of unusual height and robust physique, with the 
broad hatchet-shaped face, high cheek bones and narrow 
eyes. A most festive youngster this and evidently 
out to enjoy himself. The third wore the graceful 
Cossack uniform — long coat reaching below the knees, 
ornamented with gold lace, with a broad sash at the 
waist bristling with handsome weapons. A strikingly 
good-looking youngster with a lithe figure which set off 
his kit to perfection. Another table of interest close by 



38 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



exhibited a very different type. French and all N.C.O.'s, 
but drawn from very different branches of the service. 
One elderly man wore a blue-grey cap of French pattern 
with leather peak, velveteen tunic and khaki breeches. 
Next to him sat a man in Indian khaki, wearing a 
French tropical helmet painted with grey enamel. His 
companion, also in khaki, with a black moustache, might 
have been an Egyptian or anything. He wore a fez- 
shaped cap of unusual height, dented in at the top, of 
a thick rough red flannel with three black stripes near 
the base. The last was in French blue-grey kit, wearing 
a long row of medal ribbons and a yellow flat French- 
shaped cap with a black peak. They were drinking 
coffee and cognac and discussing previous engagements. 
Next to us was a table of Serbian officers in immaculate 
kit, three out of the four wearing the beautiful Serbian 
decoration of the White Eagle. British soldiers and 
sailors were plentiful, occupying the major portion of 
the boxes, and the newly arrived Italians were also en 
evidence. There were not half a score civilians in the 
place and certainly not more than three women off the 
stage. 



CHAPTER IV 



IN SALONIKA : G.H.Q. AND OTHERS 

I got switched off from serious business in the last 
chapter because the first impressions of Salonika, as it 
appeared in August, 1916, were so amazing that they 
seemed to deserve precedence even over the graver 
problems which had to be immediately tackled and if 
possible tackled successfully. We will now get back to 
them. 

After visits to various offices, at which I was invariably 
received with the utmost courtesy (any one out to make 
more work could not be expected to be greeted with 
enthusiasm), I discovered the position to be as follows : — 
We had arrived early on a Thursday morning. The ship 
was to go into the Greek quay at noon on the Saturday 
and at once commence unloading the lorries and Ford 
vans belonging to the British M.T. As soon as the 
Fraulein had discharged this part of her cargo she was 
to proceed out into the bay to wait further orders. No 
provision could be made for discharging the hospital 
equipment till the ship's return. My newly made 
French acquaintances were very sorry but, with a shrug, 
que faire! there was no available labour. All was 
wanted for the Italians. I began to loathe these latter 
just then. 



40 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



Colonel Sondermeyer and Dr. Bennett returned late on 
the Friday night. I was early at the former's office the 
following morning with my plan ready, which I explained 
to his Staff. It was quite simple. If they would give me 
a platoon of Serbian soldiers we would unload our boxes 
and bales ourselves whilst the M.T. cars were being got 
out. An introduction to Colonel Sondermeyer followed, 
with whom and his Staff I ever afterwards maintained 
excellent relations ; even if they were occasionally 
aghast at my somewhat hustling methods, as each 
fresh difficulty presented itself. After all, was it not 
the dictum of that clear-headed old man, Prince 
Bismarck, or his confederate von Moltke, that war is a 
matter of improvisation on the moment ? And if that 
is true of the actual fighting, it is even more so of trans- 
port work — out in Macedonia at any rate. Colonel 
Sondermeyer did not altogether like my plan but even- 
tually agreed to it, provided the French authorities did 
not object. I had reason for thinking that they would 
close the eye to our proceedings. He undertook to get 
me the men. 

It may be asked — Why the hurry ? Well firstly, we 
had an opportunity of getting up to the front. It was 
a chance in a million. Also there were ugly rumours 
going about of a sudden advance by the Bulgarians, 
and it was even said that Ostrovo might be captured. 
Anyway fighting was going on up in the mountains ; 
there would be wounded, and the Serbians had no 
properly equipped hospital on that front. Our job was 
to get up there in as short a space of time as possible. 
If the equipment went out into the bay with the ship, 
it might be a month at the least before we could get a 
move on. And in war what cannot happen in a month ? 



IN SALONIKA: G.H.Q. AND OTHERS 41 



I went on out to the camp to report to the C.M.O. 
This camp, which I had not yet visited as I was still 
living on the ship, was about two and a half miles beyond 
the tram terminus, the tram lines running along the sea 
front some two miles or more from the centre of the 
town. I had been told I would probably get a lift on 
from the terminus in one of the cars belonging to the 
other unit of the S.W.H. working under the French, 
which had been established in Salonika for eight months 
or more. It was between twelve and one when I got 
there, frightfully hot, and every one, save those on duty, 
was taking a siesta after the midday meal. I met here 
Dr. Mcllroy, who has been in charge of this unit from the 
outset. She has been decorated by the French with the 
Croix de Guerre in reward for the fine service of the unit. 
All the cars were out, so I continued on up a blazing 
hot hill, inches deep in white dust (oh, that maddening 
white dust of Salonika — how every man jack of us got 
to loathe it !) to the office of a British unit and unearthed 
a soldier clerk. " I'm afraid we can't do anything for 
you, Sir, but there are plenty of French aviation cars 
going out to Mikra. You'll get a lift in one of them." I 
was surprised at this simple way of doing things, but turned 
to the sentry and told him to stop the next car passing. 
One soon came up, driven by a young Frenchman who 
spoke perfect English, and he dropped me at my desti- 
nation. I soon learnt that getting lifts was the normal 
procedure out here where there were no taxis to hail. 
Once you got to know the ropes you could get a lift all 
over Macedonia — up to the front and even up to the 
trenches if you cared to. It was a gorgeously free 
country for seeing operations in, and you could go any- 
where and do almost anything, provided you could get 



42 



AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



away, and the sun, malaria, and dysentery left you 
sufficient energy. I explained my projected plan of 
campaign to the C.M.O., who agreed that it appeared 
feasible and said we would go and see Colonel Sonder- 
meyer again later on and make sure that the men 
would be on the quay at six o'clock next morning, 
which was my arrangement, and also that we had 
my minimum of fifty. Dr. Bennett also agreed to 
provide me with a party of ckeckers from the girl 
orderlies. 

I may take this opportunity to briefly describe the 
unit. At the head was Dr. Bennett, the C.M.O., whom I 
had already met at the docks at home whilst engaged 
in loading up the equipment. In addition the unit 
consisted at that time of some sixty women and was a 
truly Imperial Unit in character. Members hailed 
not only from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, 
but from the Dominions and the Colonies as well. Three 
of the doctor's staff alone came from Australia and New 
Zealand, the C.M.O. and Drs. Cooper and Scott ; Dr. 
Lewis from England and Dr. Muncaster from Scotland. 
The administrator of the unit, Miss Jack, and Miss 
Gordon, sanitary officer, from Scotland ; Miss Bedford, 
in charge of the cars, from Australia. The Matron, Miss 
Tate, from England, and Miss Kerr, chief of the culinary 
department, from Scotland. This completed the officer 
staff of the unit. Several of the orderlies also hailed 
from the Antipodes and others from elsewhere in the 
Empire. One of the latter, Miss Blair Wilson, a friend 
from Edinburgh, I had been accustomed to meet in 
very different conditions. Out here she made a 
charming and hard-working Mess Orderlie ! Some 
members of the staff had also already seen service 



IN SALONIKA: G.H.Q. AND OTHERS 43 



in Serbia, having either been taken prisoners during 
the Retreat, as was the case with Drs. Lewis and Scott, 
Miss Jack, Miss Gordon, and Miss Kerr; whilst Dr. 
Muncaster had led her unit through the Retreat, 
eventually arriving at Durazzo after experiences which 
sounded like a fairy tale. 

The money which had enabled the unit to be raised 
and fitted out had been subscribed in America (the unit 
being therefore entitled the " American " unit for the 
Serbian army). The following tale will I trust prove that 
the money so generously subscribed by the Americans 
was not wasted. There were also private donations, 
such as Lady Cowdray's magnificent gift of the total 
equipment of bedsteads for the hospital. 

When I found the Greek quay that evening I 
discovered the Fraulein alongside. She had only 
got in at 4 p.m. and the work of hoisting out the lorries 
was about to commence. The Chief promised to have 
No. 5 hatches off ready to start our work next day. 
He had no orders, he said, about the hospital, but that 
was my affair. The party of girls, three orderlies to 
check and three chauffeur girls to drive up the ambulance 
cars which we had on board, arrived punctually at six 
next morning, but the Serbians only turned up at seven. 
I subsequently discovered that they had marched about 
twenty miles through the night ! 

We now commenced a piece of work of which we all 
felt inordinately proud when it was done. How long it 
would take I had not a notion, but it soon became 
obvious that, owing to delays and congestion, we should 
not see the end before midnight. As a matter of fact, 
we did not finish till 11 a.m. next day, working all through 
the night. And we nearly had to stop soon after the 



AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



start. There was no question of getting one of the 
Custom sheds to put our stuff in. All were full. But 
a place was marked down which would do. Before we 
started, however, it was invaded by Italian infantrymen, 
a new lot just being landed. A Frenchman advised me 
to see the French debarkation people in charge of this 
quay. I found the office. Nothing could be done, with 
a shrug. " We have got to land the Italians and all 
their kit and stores on this quay. How can there be 
room for you ? " " But, monsieur, I have got my labour." 
" You had better see Monsieur le Captaine, then. He 
will be in shortly." On his arrival my request was 
explained to him by his subordinate. There was a 
heated harangue. " Mais ce n'est pas possible. Absolu- 
ment non, pas possible." But in the end he invited me 
to go out with him and look round. I suggested a spot, 
but he waived it aside with an " Impossible, monsieur." 
I next pointed out a long wall of one of the sheds. He 
said nothing and my hopes fell to zero. It was evidently 
touch and go. Eventually we returned to my wall. 
Reluctantly he gave his assent with the proviso that if 
the area was wanted the equipment would have to be 
shifted. Thinking that it would take some shifting 
once there, I agreed with profuse thanks. And that 
corner turned meant a good deal more than I guessed. The 
work was now got into full swing, four Frenchmen 
running the winches for us, but the rest of the job being 
done by the Serbians and the girl checkers. Having 
finished with Brass Hats for the time being, I got into 
shorts, putties and shirt (one has to be so immaculate 
to visit these French H.Q. offices) and prepared for a 
long day of it. 

The lorries and M.T. Ford vans were luckily in the 



IN SALONIKA: G.H.Q. AND OTHERS 45 

forward holds, whereas we were in No. 5 right aft. This 
was fortunate, as it kept us free of each other ; but in 
other ways our position was unfortunate as the ship was 
too long for the quay and we, had to unload in the 
extreme corner. To add to our troubles the only 
drinking pipe with tap was in that corner and conse- 
quently our bales and boxes were lowered over the side 
almost on the heads of an ever-present crowd of thirsty 
Italian, French, English and Serbian soldiery, to which 
now and again were added horses and mules. The 
pandemonium reigning in that corner can be better 
imagined than described. We were unable to swing 
the bales to the left as they would have dropped into 
the harbour. We could never have continued to carry 
on had it not been for the fact that the Serbian is a 
particularly phlegmatic individual in matters of this 
kind and patient to a degree — always ready to appre- 
ciate a joke, and to hide away behind a break of bales 
and smoke a cigarette (but what soldier is not like this ?), 
and, more important, to laugh when found out. They 
are like overgrown children in many respects and really 
very lovable. The way those men worked through that 
twenty-eight hours — hot hours during the day and corre- 
spondingly cold ones at night — was wonderful and quickly 
secured one's liking and admiration. With supervision 
they make as fine workers as any I have met, and when 
it comes to really hard fighting they are difficult to beat, 
as I trust to be able to show. Of course we did not get 
through those long hours without checks and worries. 
The two mechanics, Scott and English, the one in the 
hold, the other on the quay, were invaluable, and though 
unloading a ship was not exactly our metier in life, we 
got along somehow. The middle watches of the night 



46 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



gave the greatest trouble. We all got sleepy and the 
tent bales made such tempting couches for the poor 
tired Serbs. One felt a brute hunting them out in the 
semi-darkness and turning them to again. Scott 
during that night was wonderful. In the morning a 
keen wind got up and between that and more Italians 
being landed and the dust the last few hours were a 
struggle. During the night the subalterns in charge 
of the car-unloading business, those who had come out 
on the ship, and myself put our heads together and it 
looked perilously like as if they would finish ahead of 
me (for they had a relief party — I had none), in which 
case the ship would immediately leave the quay. There 
being no officials about to worry us, we were able to so 
arrange matters as to reduce this danger to a minimum, 
but even then it was plain enough that it was going to 
be a very near thing. With the dawn we worked 
feverishly, most of our men being three-parts asleep. 
Not till the last half -hour arrived was there any certainty 
that we should finish, and by then the whole of the ship's 
company were as keen on the struggle as we ourselves, 
also not a few of the Frenchmen on the quay who knew 
what was taking place. In the end it was done. The 
heavy lorries saved us. They took longer to get out than 
had been anticipated. As the last went over the side 
forward we slung out the last five slings of tent flooring 
aft and the job was done. Five hundred and more ship's 
tons we had shifted, a creditable bit of work I was told by 
the professionals who had watched the job from the start, 
for a scratch lot of performers. The Serbs coiled them- 
selves up on our dump, the size of which surprised the 
Frenchmen as also ourselves, but there were some 1400 
bales, etc., in it, and went sound to sleep as one man, 



IN SALONIKA: G.H.Q. AND OTHERS 47 



The ship had already begun to move slowly as I and 
my kit were hurried down the companion way. 

And now I have left the most amazing part of this 
piece of work till the last, to wit, the performance of the 
S.W.H. orderlies, for it was magnificent. 

I have said that a party of orderlies were turned for 
the nonce into equipment checkers. The whole of the 
hospital equipment, every box, bale and piece of tent 
flooring was checked by these girls as it came over the 
side of the ship on to the quay and rechecked by others 
as it was stacked up in the dump some fifty yards away. 
The first party worked from 7 a.m. till 3 p.m., when, 
protesting vigorously that they were not tired and 
wanted to see the whole thing out, they were relieved 
and returned to the camp. The second party, four in 
number, started at 3 p.m. and worked on till 11 a.m. next 
morning ; it is as difficult to express admiration at the 
efficiency of the work they did as at the grit they 
displayed, for they only had about three hours' sleep that 
night. I had arranged to have them relieved at 8 p.m. ; 
for before the first lot, extremely angry, returned to 
camp, I had realised that we had an all-night's job in 
front of us. When, however, the relief arrived, to the 
disgust of party No. 2. who also wished to finish the 
job, the risk of restarting with a new lot was too great. 
We were then working in semi-darkness. It was next to 
impossible in the absence of light to explain our 
procedure clearly, and the Serbians who had got into 
the ways of party No. 2 and were already becoming 
sleepy would inevitably get bewildered with a change 
of management. Party No. 3, although naturally 
disappointed at not having their finger in this pie of 
hard work, returned to camp. We did not starve the 



48 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



working parties. The officers of the ship saw to that. 
It was their unbounded hospitality which made the 
business a possibility, although they strongly disapproved 
of the women working in this fashion, and did not forget 
to let me know it ; the girls themselves, however, 
laughed at them for — well I think I heard one say " senti- 
mental idiots." I don't know how many sat down to 
the three luncheon parties which took place one after 
the other in the little saloon, but the CM. 0. was in No. 1, 
I remember. But party No. 2 had tea, dinner and 
breakfast next morning on board. We turned out of 
our cabins so that they might have a few hours' sleep ; 
but they had to be driven into them. 

The mere recital of the way they worked is sufficient 
in itself. It requires no varnishing. The names of the 
checking party are well worthy of record. They are 
Mrs. Ingles and Miss Stirling (Australia), Misses Reid, 
Adam and Fowler (Scotland), Misses Smith and Dick 
(England). 



CHAPTER V 



SALONIKA AND MIKRA BAY 

Very disturbing rumours were flying about next morn- 
ing, and it was certain that something unexpected had 
happened up at the front on both the right (British) and 
left (French and Serbian) wings. Colonel Sondermeyer 
and his staff appeared very grave and disturbed when 
I accompanied the C.M.O. on a visit there. Of course 
it was impossible to make out the exact position, but 
matters were sufficiently serious for orders to have been 
issued that the unit was to stand fast in the camp at 
Mikra Bay. 

Almost would it look as if the strenuous work of 
unloading the equipment was to go for nought. The 
disappointment at the new order was severe, and the 
unspoken thought, which was in most of our minds, that 
after all we might not get up to the front, was the more 
tormenting in that no one would give voice to it. 

We were hung up for the time being but by no means 
idle. The temporary camp out at Mikra Bay on the 
edge of the blue Mediterranean, with the beautiful 
Mount Athos in the distance, was a small affair consisting 
of a fine large mess tent and a handful of small and old, 
often holey, bell tents floored with a fine sand which 
got into one's bed, clothes, socks and boots, in fact, into 
everything, as a fresh breeze blew every afternoon. 

E 



50 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



We had a thunderstorm or two with heavy rain during 
the fortnight or so the unit were there, and then the 
place turned into a stodgy bog and the girls went about 
in oileys and gum boots, a not unbecoming kit. The 
hours were workmanlike : Reveille, 6 a.m., breakfast 
0.30 a.m. (think of that, you 9-o'clockers), dinner 12, 
tea 3.30 p.m., supper 7 p.m., and lights out at 9 p.m. 
But many must have often looked back with a sigh 
perhaps to the days of ease and comparative luxury 
enjoyed at Mikra. I say comparative, for we sat on 
rough forms, ate off rough deal tables innocent of napery, 
from enamelled plates, one cup ditto apiece (with knife, 
fork and spoon when they went round) ; bathing in 
the warm sea when so inclined, tea parties at Flocca's, 
where they had wonderful cakes and patisserie, rides in 
mora and evening, and very little work. Beautiful 
horses some of the Serbian officers had, and they were 
always ready to lend them. But many soon tired of this 
existence and grumbled for work. 

Nor were all idle. Dr. Bennett started a canteen 
at the Railway Station in Salonika, which proved 
invaluable as long as we could run it ; lent some of the 
nurses to one of the R.A.M.C. hospitals whose nursing 
staff had not arrived ; and as soon as they could be 
fitted the ambulances began to run out to the field 
hospitals, carrying wounded and sick. And the C.M.O. 
worked hard enough for three. Others of us will more 
readily associate the sojourn at Mikra with the heat and 
dust and glare of the Greek quay than with the pleasant 
camp by the Mediterranean. And the quay at that 
period was not one of the least interesting parts of the 
town. During the next ten days on and off we spent 
many hours working there, the checking staff and myself, 



SALONIKA AND MIKRA BAY 51 



and we never struck a day but a troopship had just come 
in and was discharging her living freight and their 
impedimenta. I soon began to appreciate the argument 
of the French G.H.Q. that they had no time to devote 
to our equipment and its fortunes. We lived those 
days in a turmoil of men, equipment, horses, mules and 
guns, carts of all conditions and sizes, lorries large and 
small, and motor cars, staff and otherwise. I had a 
guard of Serbians on our dump, but in spite of it each 
morning we had to set about retrieving our tent flooring, 
which had been carried by the newly-arrived soldiery 
all over the place to serve as beds or as particularly 
convenient resting places on which to pile their packs 
and equipment, saddles, mule packs, rifles, etc. ; or as 
tables off which to dine. They always returned them to 
the dump with a laugh when they discovered we were 
the owners, but why we never lost any of the 700 odd 
pieces passes my comprehension. 

When you add a glaring hot sun and dense clouds of 
fine white dust often blown about by a strong breeze, 
you have a picture of the conditions under which the 
checker girls worked. They did not appear to consider 
they were doing anything out of the ordinary. But 
the French and Italians, officers and men alike, held a 
different opinion. For they watched them at first with 
surprise and incredulity which changed to admiration. 
" Oh ! ces Anglais, Us sont si pratique " was the oft- 
repeated exclamation. Whether this allusion referred to 
the methodical manner in which the girls worked or to 
the fact that we brought our women into the show as 
well as our men, I never determined. And the soldiers, 
French, Italian, and of course our own Tommies, were 
ever ready to help ; hot, dusty and tired though they were 



52 



AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



themselves, newly arrived in a strange country and, for 
the majority, unaccustomed heat. I could add much to 
this brief picture, but it will suffice. 

Rumours flew about during those days of anxious 
suspense. The C.M.O. lived in the various offices, and 
not a day passed but I went to one or the other endeavour- 
ing to obtain definite promises of railway waggons or 
other transport in which to get our material up country 
as soon as our orders were received. But things were 
far from well on our front. We learnt that Fiorina in 
the Monastir Plain had been captured by the Bulgarians, 
who were advancing east on Ostrovo. If the latter fell, 
Salonika or its environs was still likely to be our fate. 
The single line of railway up to our left wing was quite 
inadequate to cope with the demands being made upon 
it, for we knew that reinforcements were being sent up as 
rapidly as possible. So much I gleaned at the various 
offices, but as to how serious matters really were we 
remained in the dark. I made the acquaintance of 
the senior British liaison officer with the Serbians, 
Major Solomon, during this period. He and his junior, 
Captain Gooden, apparently spent week and week about 
at Salonika and Ostrovo, and both were to prove stout 
friends and pleasant companions later on. 

The Revolution of Salonika came on to entertain the 
town. It was a poor affair, but it created quite a sen- 
sation. We went in that morning in one of the cars 
and noticed an unusual lot of troops, all armed, patrol- 
ling ; whilst a French regiment was on duty on the 
parade ground in front of the Greek barracks. The 
trams were not running. I went down to the quay to 
inspect the Serbian guard on the dump, returning about 
eleven with the C.M.O. More patrols were on the streets 




CAMP OSTROVO — THE TENTS' OF THE HOSPITAL 
PERSONNEL 




THE SCOTTISH WOMEN GOING INTO FLOCCA's FOR 
AFTERNOON TEA BY— NOT EXACTLY A ROLLS- 
ROYCE. MISS BLAIR WILSON IN FOREGROUND 




THE BRIDGELESS Via Enagtid ON THE SALONICA 
PLAIN. AN M.T. FORD VAN AND ITS DRIVER. 
THE OTHER MEN BELONGED TO MY CONVOY 



SALONIKA AND MIKRA BAY 53 



and in front of the parade ground, but on the pavement 
across the road a couple of armoured cars were in 
position, guns out, loaded, and trained on the barracks. 
Their orders were to fire on the barracks at noon unless 
the Greek regiments therein surrendered before that 
hour. This state of affairs came about as follows. 

Revolutions were no new thing in Salonika. The 
year 1908, for instance, witnessed the formation of the 
Young Turkish Party. This latest attempt was, how- 
ever, almost, though not quite, bloodless. The Mace- 
donian Greeks rose against the Athens policy which had 
already given over Eastern Macedonia to the invading 
Bulgarians and would help them down to Salonika if 
the Allies were not careful. Although there was great 
excitement in the town, the revolution itself passed ofi 
quietly enough so far as the inhabitants were concerned. 

The movement broke out in the morning of August 
30, Colonel Zimbrakakis of the cavalry, with all the 
officers of the Auxiliary Corps being at the head of it. 
At noon the 2nd Cretan Company were invited by their 
Commander Lieut. Tzaconas to join the movement. 
The 300 officers and men enthusiastically agreed, and 
headed by their band visited the barracks of the Gendar- 
merie, where they were joined by all the men, some 1000 
strong. They then marched to the Place du Gouvern- 
ment, the rendezvous. The following proclamation 
was posted up on walls throughout the town : — " Greeks ! 
Following the noble idea of liberating the regions occupied 
by the Bulgarians, we call on your patriotism and ask 
for your help in the struggle which you are about to 
undertake, feeling sure that you will participate in our 
national aspirations. We now range ourselves by the 
side of the Allied troops, in order, with their help, to sweep 



54 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



the invader from Macedonian soil. We ask all those 
Greeks who are abroad to give us their help also in this 
struggle for liberation which we shall undertake with 
courage, feeling sure that we shall contribute to give 
back soon to our country the position of which it has 
been deprived by the ambitions and interest of 
foreigners." 

A second proclamation addressed to the troops 
said : — " Soldiers ! It is impossible to obey those who 
have ordered us to hand over Macedonia without 
resistance. To do so would show our absolute want 
of patriotic sentiment, the Army belonging to the 
country and not only to a certain element of it. The 
Commission of National Defence, constituted of persons 
representing the whole of Macedonia, under the presi- 
dency of a superior officer of the Greek Army, invites 
soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers to fall 
into line for the accomplishment of our sublime mission. " 

Later in the afternoon several thousand troops 
paraded through the town amidst great enthusiasm 
and proceeded to the French G.H.Q., where Colonel 
Zimbrakakis formally announced to General Sarrail 
the formation of the Commission of National Defence. 
On the following day, the 31st, a proclamation was 
posted announcing a general mobilisation in Macedonia. 
This day saw the end of this most successful little revo- 
lution. But events had happened during the past night 
whilst the inhabitants slept. At the interview which had 
taken place between General Sarrail and Colonel Zimbra- 
kakis the former had sanctioned the announcement 
that he would welcome with pleasure those Greek 
troops who wished to join themselves with the Allies 
in Macedonia. This decision was received with great 



SALONIKA AND MIKRA BAY 55 



acclamation. The National Defence Party and their 
troops then marched through the town and took posses- 
sion without incident of the building settled upon as 
their H.Q. But there was to be opposition. Some 1500 
Greek Infantry belonging to the 3rd Army Corps and 
occupying large barracks in the town facing the Champ 
du Mars, the parade ground, had refused to join the 
movement. In order to avoid a conflict if possible, 
Colonel Zimbrakakis had the barracks surrounded, 
cutting off the water supply and electric light (which 
resulted in stopping the trams). The barracks were 
unprovisioned. Between three and four a.m. about 200 
of the infantry thus rounded up made a sortie. They 
were warned that they would be fired upon, but per- 
sisted, were fired upon and lost three killed, and seven 
wounded. Shortly before dawn a second small engage- 
ment took place, both sides firing. This soon died away 
and no more casualties were reported. Neither side 
had been too keen on exposing themselves after the 
first blood had been drawn. During the morning of 
the 31st the barracks had remained in a state of siege, 
and it was this spectacle which we witnessed when 
passing the parade ground into and back from Salonika. 
The infantry were given till noon to surrender, after 
which hour they would be attacked. They made the 
best of an impossible position and Colonel Tricoupis, 
their Commander, a brave man and loyal to his salt 
and King, however misguided we may think him, 
surrendered to the French. The infantry with some 
forty officers were marched out without arms escorted 
by the French, the Committee of National Defence 
taking possession of the barracks. The revolution was 
over and the shops hastened to exhibit portraits, hideous 



56 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



monstrosities most of them, of Venizelos the Patriot ! 
In the weeks to come, as a result of the mobilisation, 
crowds of Macedonian civilians were to be seen marching 
along the roads leading to Salonika, hordes of men 
giving but little promise of turning out efficient fighting 
men. But the same spectacle was to be seen on all 
sides in England in the early days following Kitchener's 
call. And we all know, and so does Germany, the result 
of that call. 

During their few Sundays in Salonika the unit was 
" at home " in the afternoons. Many had friends or 
relatives in the place or these had come down from the 
front on a few days' leave for the purpose, whilst it gave 
a chance of showing hospitality to the French, Serbian 
and British officers who were either responsible for our 
movements or were giving us disinterested advice and 
help. The camp was a brilliant sight on these few 
occasions, the uniforms of French and Serbians with the 
British and French Naval blue lighting up the British 
officer's sober khaki. Colonel Sondermeyer and one or 
more members of his staff were invariably present, 
coming up from the office and returning there after- 
wards. 

Several extraordinary reunions took place. One of 
the chauffeur girls met a brother whom she had not seen 
for seven years. He was in one of the Australian Regi- 
ments, had been wounded and only just arrived here 
from Malta. They must have been children, or the girl 
at least, when they last met. What a place and time 
to meet again ! Our sea friends came to visit the 
camp, of course ; in fact the whole harbour, so far as 
one could make out, made a point of visiting the various 
hospital units in Salonika, in all of which Sunday 



SALONIKA AND MIKRA BAY 57 



afternoon was the " at home " day, to see their lady 
friends. This was a wise innovation whoever inaugur- 
ated it, as it helped to lighten for a few hours the constant 
strain to which the women were subjected through the 
week. The gaiety was light-hearted enough, and chiefly 
consisted in swapping local gup, retailing the last 
impossible rumour from the front or home, or yarning, 
especially from the sailors. 

One story I must tell. It may be a chestnut — possibly 
is — but anyway it'll be my last sea yarn, and it is 
appropriate for a Sunday. 

A warrant officer, a rough old sea bird of long service 
on board a man-of-war in port, was ordered to line 
the men up for service one Sunday morning according 
to their different denominations. Having his men 
lined up on the deck, the surly old salt, who was ill- 
acquainted with religious sects; barked out the following 
orders : — 

" Church of Hengland — Stand fast. 

" R.C.'s — One pace step forward. March. 

" Fancy Religioins — One pace step back. March." 



CHAPTER VI 



SOME DESCRIPTION OF THE COUNTRY IN WHICH THE 
WESTERN ARMIES WERE TO OPERATE 

It will be necessary, before proceeding further, to give 
as briefly as posible some idea of the fascinating, 
picturesque, but exceedingly difficult country, from the 
Transport Officer's point of view, in which the Allies 
were about to commence an advance. I mention the 
Transport Officer, for his was undeniably a Herculean 
task, but the armies operating in the mountainous regions, 
and the greater part were, had an exceedingly difficult 
and perilous job in front of them. 

The plain of Salonika is some fifty miles broad, 
surrounded by high mountains spread out in a fan-shaped 
manner with the town at the centre. The River Vardar, 
piercing the Northern Mountains, flows across the plain as 
a turgid stream, entering the bay of Salonika a few miles 
to the west of the town. To the west of the Vardar (Axios) 
another giant cleft in the mountains enables theMoglenitza 
river to reach the plain ; further to the west is the Voda 
river, and right in the south the Vistritza (Haliakmon). 
The basin of the Moglenitza is some 20 miles long and 4 
to 8 broad. It is bounded by steep, bare mountains from 
4200 feet to 8284 feet in height, and consequently the 
river is subject to rapid flooding after rain, which results 



TOPOGRAPHY OF WESTERN MACEDONIA 59 



in sudden inundations occurring in the plain to the south. 
The portion of the plain within the area of this river 
produces fine crops of millet, maize and cotton, two to 
three crops a year being obtained. The newly reformed 
Serbian Army was encamped here after reaching 
Macedonia, but was not left in these pleasant quarters 
for long, being sent up into the Moglena Mountains to 
take up positions facing the Bulgars, who occupied the 
highest crests, of which Kajmaktcalan, 8284 feet, formed 
one of the highest and strongest. There were no roads 
in these mountains, but a few tortuous, steeply graded 
mountain tracks give access to the Cherna Valley. 

To the south-west of the Moglena Range the mountains 
are cleft by another valley, that of the Voda. This 
practically forms the sole route into the Monastir Plain, 
both the railway — a single line from Salonika to Monastir 
— and the Monastir road proceeding up this cleft. The 
road — the Via Egnatia — is the old Roman road from the 
iEgean to the Adriatic which continued across Albania to 
Durazzo ( Dyrrachium) . The railway and road run together 
from Salonika to the curious old-world village of Jenidze- 
Vardar or Yanitsa. From here the railway runs south 
to Verri and then turns north to Vertekop, where it 
rejoins the road which keeps due west to the latter after 
leaving Jenidze-Vardar. From Vertekop, situated at the 
western extremity of the Salonika plain, you perceive 
the valley or cleft in the mountains to the west, up which 
both railway and road pass on their way to Ostrovo en 
route to the Monastir Plain. Orchards, vineyards and 
mulberry copses clothe the outer face of the lower hills 
here as you commence the climb to Vodena (Aigai), 
one of the most quaint and picturesque of ancient 
towns, once the old capital, perched upon the top of 



60 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



more or less precipitous rock from which cascades 
and shining waterfalls gush down through the green 
mulberry clumps. The view of Vodena with its white 
minarets and poplar trees is a most picturesque one 
from the plain, as picturesque in its way as is the town 
itself. Beyond Vodena the valley becomes an upland 
plateau never very wide ; in volcanic depressions in 
which, in addition to smaller ones, are situated the great 
lakes of Ostrovo and Petersko, the former many shades 
of blue, the latter of emerald green. On leaving Ostrovo 
the road and railway run along the north and north- 
western side of Lake Ostrovo, subsequently reaching 
Sorovitch and Ekshisu. On leaving the latter the railway 
turns north to Banitsa and then north-west to Fiorina 
and Monastir. A second road or mountain track runs 
from Ostrovo to Banitsa over the mountains, and this 
formed one of the two lines of communication of the 
first and third Serbian Armies operating in these hills 
during these fateful months. I shall have more to say 
about these roads later* 

From this brief description it will be understood 
that the line of communications was extremely inadequate 
and hampered the movements of the armies to a very 
considerable extent. The single line of railway, after 
leaving the plain at Vertekop, ascends the mountains 
to Ostrovo in a tortuous manner, up extraordinary steep 
gradients and over many viaducts. On some of them 
it always appeared a toss-up whether the train would 
not run backward, and it had to take frequent rests even 
with two engines on, to allow the latter to get up a fresh 
head of stem. Eight trains in the twenty-four hours 
was all that could usually be run and the requirements 
needed about 80. The train took anything from 18 to 



TOPOGRAPHY OF WESTERN MACEDONIA 61 



24 hours to do the 90 miles between Salonika and Ostrovo. 
After leaving Ostrovo the levels were easier, and up to 
August trains could run to Fiorina. Subsequently the 
Bulgars blew up the big Ekshisu viaduct and the railway 
could only serve the French up to the latter place. 

As regards the road, it is, as has been said, an old 
Roman road. In the plains from Salonika to Vertekop, 
it consisted of old pave in an appalling state of disrepair, 
most of the bridges being wanting. When it entered 
the hills it became a mountain track or bridle path, 
consisting of varying stretches of deep sand, hiding 
large boulders or rocky masses, varied by lengths of naked 
projecting rock masses of all sizes and sharpnesses. 
There were miles of this kind of thing, and in the towns 
cross channels of varying depth and width and in great 
numbers made progression in motor cars a thing of 
torture. Needless to say no car had ever been seen on 
the road before the war, and until early in last year no 
inhabitant of Vodena who had not " travelled " had 
ever seen a car. 

When you reach Banitsa by either of the two roads 
I have described, you have reached the south end of the 
Monastir Plain. The lake road was the line of advance 
of the French and Russians. The scenery after leaving 
Vertekop is varying — at times wild, gloomy, almost 
menacing, as the great barren rocky mountains close in 
on the road ; at others smiling, " riante," as the French 
would express it, with small cultivated oases and orchards 
and in places small vineyards. 

I have mentioned the river Vistritza. This river 
is situated in the south of the area here considered, and 
runs north-east through the mountains to Verria (the 
old Berea of the "Acts of the Apostles") and the 



62 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



Bay of Salonika. A road runs from Verria along this 
valley and reaches Kozani, then turns north to Fiorina 
and Monastir. The importance of Kozani lies in the 
fact that it is the centre of lines of communication linking 
up Thessaly and Macedonia and therefore Greece and 
Germany via Monastir. 

If I have made myself intelligible it will thus be seen 
that the French had a single line of railway to Ekshisu, a 
road running alongside the railway, and a second longer 
route from Verria via Kozani. Then both these roads 
with one or two branch ones connecting them continued 
due north over the plain to Monastir. The Serbian front 
had the road as far as Ostrovo. In the Moglena 
Mountains roads were non-existent. The Serbian armies 
were served from this Salonika-Ostrovo road by mountain 
tracks leading north from the road at Vertekop or Vodena 
and Ostrovo, and these tracks were of the most appalling 
nature. We all know that Napoleon crossed the Alps 
in the face of stupendous topographical difficulties. 
The Serbs had to face very similar conditions in the 
Moglena Mountains, the difference being that Napoleon 
was able to take his enemies by surprise, whereas the 
Serbs had to face a watchful enemy already occupying 
all the crests which they had fortified. All the more 
honour to the brave Serbs who, undismayed, turned the 
Bulgarsout of their prepared strongholds, after sanguinary 
fighting under probably some of the most difficult con- 
ditions which have ever faced an army. 

To complete this brief survey a few words may be 
said about the eastern wing. Between the Vardar and 
the Struma, our eastern limit of operations, the armies 
are engaged in trench warfare similar to that on the 
western front in France. The British, some French and 



TOPOGRAPHY OF WESTERN MACEDONIA 63 



Italians were here. The reason for this difference in 
the methods in east and west (for there was but little 
trench warfare save in one instance on the west) is 
that both on the east and west of Lake Doiran an 
advance would take the Allies into the Strumnitza 
valley, which would open the way to Sofia. The Bulgars 
have therefore fortified this part of the line very 
strongly. This front is served by the railway running 
due north from Salonika to Doiran, then east to 
Demirhissar, and thence through Seres and Drama, 
eventually reaching Constantinople. The mountains 
east of Doiran, almost impassable country, were held by 
the Italians, and beyond, the narrow Struma gap which 
offers an entrance into Bulgaria, is protected by the 
Rupel Fort made over by the Greeks to the Bulgarians. 
The eastern wing thus practically serves as a pivot for 
the west wing to turn on and also proves the possibilities 
(or did so last year) of the advance to the north of 
Monastir. 

Space will not permit me to devote time to a description 
of the extraordinary collection of types met in the towns 
in this tract of country. Greeks, Turks, Albanians, 
Jews, Serbs, the Bulgar type, Roumanians — all are seen 
in the streets of Jenidze-Vardar or Vodena, The houses 
with their overhanging stories, carved wood-work and 
projecting roofs almost meeting overhead, are reminiscent 
of mediaeval Europe, whilst the little open-faced shops 
below with the men squatting down inside resemble an 
Indian or Cairo bazaar. And the clothing worn is as 
varied in type as are the people themselves, an extra- 
ordinary mixture of East and West. 

The agriculturists of the countryside are chiefly 
Greeks, with some Rumanian and Turkish villages. The 



64 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



animals used in ploughing are the ox and sometimes the 
buffalo. Both are used as draught animals. But the 
commonest beast of burden is the donkey. He is in- 
dispensable — carries the produce to market, the ploughs 
to the field and back again, fodder for the cattle, a 
common sight, and in addition to any burden he may be 
loaded with, he has to carry his owner. They are very 
small these donkeys, and it was a ludicrous sight to see 
some long-legged Greek astride one of these diminutive 
animals, his legs touching the ground on either side ; 
and still funnier to meet a fat Turk astride or a veiled 
woman in gala dress going into market. 



THE MACEDONIAN DONKEY, ITS LOAD AND OWNER 




TYPES OF THE INHABITANTS OF THE MACEDONIAN VILLAGES. 
NOTE THE VILLAGE PRIEST ON- THE EXTREME RIGHT. ONE OF OUR WORKING GANGS 
WITH THE PRIEST AS OVERSEER 



I 



CHAPTER VII 



TO OSTROVO IN CHARGE OF AN ADVANCE PARTY 

The scene changed suddenly — the Bulgarians were 
thrown back slightly — the camp buzzed with the news. 
Colonel Sondermeyer appeared in the camp one afternoon 
— Friday, September 1st — and asked whether we could 
send up a detachment with sufficient tents for the whole 
personnel at once. A short conference ensued and it 
was arranged that tents and material sufficient for a 
few nights should be dispatched with an advance party 
on the following Sunday, using our own transport, the 
rest of the personnel following on the Tuesday and the 
balance of the equipment later. It was not an ideal 
arrangement, but there were reasons for it which I need 
not go into here. Suffice to say that a big push was 
impending — that there was no properly equipped 
hospital up at that front, that the Serbians were desirous 
of getting one there in time, and ours was the one to have 
the chance. Risks we had to take, as you will see when 
I describe the journey of the advance party. Ostrovo 
was eighty-five miles away by road, and after leaving 
the plains the road became a mountain track of sand or 
rock. There was a terrific hill to negotiate and some 
broken bridges — bad enough this for light cars, but we 
were to take up two loaded lorries. It was hoped that 
we might get through in the day — Colonel Sondermeyer 

F 



66 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



is of a sanguine temperament and moreover he had never 
taken a convoy of lorries up. Also Mrs. Harley's 
unit had had some curious experiences on the road 
earlier in the week and they only tried to take up two 
light ambulances. The day following the conference 
was a pretty strenuous one. Dawn found us tackling 
the dump on the quay. An Italian transport had just 
come in, a British with heavy lorries shortly followed ; 
and a strong breeze was blowing. We had to look for 
some sixty tent bales and boxes out of the dump of some 
1400 odd. We got through by midday, and our two 
heavily overloaded lorries were dispatched to camp. 
We heard on the quay that the Fraulein had only 
just come alongside again, and we congratulated our- 
selves on having been able to unload our material when 
she was first in, nearly two weeks before. Whether 
we should have got up to the front at this period had 
we not been ready to start is open to doubt, as will be 
shown. The afternoon was spent in getting the two 
lorries and three ambulances which were to form the 
convoy of the advance party ready. We started at dawn 
next day — one of the cars getting a puncture when 
scarce two miles from camp costing us an hour. The 
party consisted of thirteen Scottish women, including Dr. 
Muncaster, who had been through the Serbian retreat, 
with Miss Gordon (sanitary engineer), Miss Kerr (chief of 
the cooking department), one of the sisters, and orderlies, 
amongst whom were several of the checking party, and 
three chauffeur girls (Misses Green, James, and Baker), 
myself, two Serbian chauffeurs and two other Serbs. 
There is no doubt that the unit looked upon the business 
as a picnic party. I know that tears were shed in some 
quarters when the list of names of the party was read 



GO UP TO THE SEKBIAN FRONT 67 



out and keen members found they were not included. 
My own private opinion as to the u picnic " idea I kept 
to myself. But you'll admit it was a novel and piquant 
experience to set off to the Front with a party of women, 
a heavily loaded convoy, and in front of one eighty-five 
miles of unknown road, half of which was a mountain 
track, whilst the gradients and bridges on the whole 
length were of an extremely doubtful character. 

Our pace was to be regulated by that of the lorries, 
since it was essential that the convoy should keep 
together. Of the three girl chauffeurs with us two were 
driving the lorries and as we carried on down the Monastir 
road through Salonika that early Sunday morning, we 
made a party which arrested the attention of all and 
sundry. The S.W.H. were well known in Salonika, but 
they had never before turned out quite such a convoy as 
we presented nor had they ever had the luck to send one 
up to the Front before. The big lorries run by the girls 
were the chief centre of interest. I must pass over the 
fifty miles or so of road in the plains. At that time it 
was still appallingly stony or rocky or sandy, but we 
ran through picturesque Yanitsa (Philip of Macedon's 
capital, known as Pella) and subsequently passed the 
two big British hospitals at Vertekop, placed some 
eight miles or so from the foot of the mountains, 
without any incident of importance, halting half an 
hour for lunch. Soon after restarting we came to a 
bridge where we expected trouble. A French N.C.O. 
stopped us and said the lorries would have to be unloaded, 
as the bridge could not carry them, and the new bridge 
was not ready. A very brief inspection showed this to 
be the case. A party of Serbian soldiers arrived to 
assist, and it was a case of coats off and one and a half 



68 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



hours of hard work. Sleepers were laid end on across 
the rickety bridge to take the wheels of the cars. There 
was no trouble with the ambulances but considerable 
difficulty with the lorries. One, the smaller, was taken 
over by one of our girl chauffeurs (Miss Baker). I was on 
the lorry, and was very glad when she got to the other 
side. It was a plucky feat. The heavy one was got 
across, after several close shaves of going into the chasm 
below, by an M.T. staff-sergeant who opportunely ap- 
peared on the scene and proved a veritable godsend 
during the next thirty hours. Loading up we restarted, 
and a few miles further on brought us to the foot of the 
big climb up to the town of Vodena. With some difficulty 
we got both lorries about a fourth of the way up the 
hill, and their condition being by then alarming we left 
them to cool whilst we had tea in a little mulberry 
plantation. That meal may be said to have ended the 
" picnic " part of this journey. We then tackled the 
lorries again. We unloaded a part of the smaller one 
and Miss James with some difficulty got it about three- 
fourths up the hill to an awkward bend and announced 
that that was her limit and probably that of the lorry. 
The big one refused to budge save backwards and 
appeared to be suffering from a sprained axle and other 
disabilities too complicated to diagnose. After this 
inspection and leaving it safely propped up, we confined 
ourselves to the smaller one. Again the staff -sergeant 
and his three men, who had gone on up the road on 
some duty or other, appeared and the former volun- 
teered to drive the lorry up. It would take too long to 
detail the shifts we were put to, but in the end the 
brilliant idea of backing her up was mooted and she got 
to the top in that fashion with the help of some short 



GO UP TO THE SERBIAN FRONT 09 



lengths of sleepers we had brought from England with us. 
These we plugged under the wheels every ten yards or 
so, and at the end of the job our own mothers and wives 
would not have recognised us. The lorry was taken to 
the entrance to the town of Vodena — a most picturesque 
place, but with an unsavoury reputation of which I had 
been warned — and there halted. This was a mischance. 
Those of us who had been grubbing about on the road 
were breathless by the time we got to the top of the hill, 
and the sergeant ran on with the lorry before I could pull 
him up. Here we should have to camp for the night, 
and a dirtier or more unpromising spot it would have 
been hard to find. Serbian soldiers were camped in fields 
to the right. To left the area was used as a dumping 
ground and playing ground for the urchins of the town — 
Greek, Albanian, Turk, etc., of whom a horde had 
already gathered to look at us, and loot if possible. 
Though one lorry was up we were in no enviable position. 
The sun was dropping behind the crest of a great moun- 
tain in the west. I had one lorry at the top of the hill, 
another stranded three-quarters way down, and strung 
out between the two, over a mile and a half of road, the 
party of thirteen women, three ambulances and a number 
of bales flung out on to the road at intervals to lighten 
the small lorry. I lost no time in setting off to retrieve 
these various articles. I was soon relieved on the subject 
of the girls. They were strolling up the hill in parties 
of two or three apparently picking flowers, and evidently 
not at all disturbed by our position and the certainty 
of a night out. But they had as an example Dr. 
Muncaster, who preserved an unruffled demeanour on 
all occasions, even, I believe, during the Serbian retreat 
of the previous year. Others of the party were engaged 



70 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



in retrieving the bales and bringing them up in the 
ambulances. I returned in the first to the lorry, had a 
fire started and saw water put on to boil to make some 
coffee, the only hot thing we could hope to have, and went 
down below to set a guard over the stranded lorry and 
pick up the rest of the party. Down below I met a 
powerfully-engined French Aviation lorry on its way up 
to Ostrovo, and the young Frenchman offered to take on 
some of the bales for us, an offer I jumped at. The 
freemasonry of the road out yonder is a wonderful thing 
to experience. I returned up above with him. The 
encampment was a funny sight. The cars were drawn up 
at the side of the road. The question of sleeping 
accommodation was being discussed over the supper. 
It was solved as follows — six were to sleep on the 
stretchers in the ambulances, three others elected to 
sleep on top of the bales on the lorry, and for the 
remainder we prepared a large bed on the road-side, 
consisting of tent bales covered with a tarpaulin. I 
had been strongly advised to get a guard for the camp, 
as Vodena was not the safest place to spend a night near. 
This I now set out to do. The Serbs encamped below 
the road were unable to give me one, but I heard from a 
Frenchman that I might get one from a French cavalry 
regiment bivouacking in the town. With the head light 
of one of the cars, and accompanied by a Serb who 
professed to know the whereabouts of the regiment, I 
set off on my quest, asking some of the camp to keep 
awake till I returned. Vodena is a quaint town, the 
streets very narrow, with a vile pave full of holes, and 
over-hanging eaves to the houses. At night it is dark as 
pitch. Our headlight gave out more smoke than light, 
progress being extremely irksome. At length we reached 



THE QUAINT, MEDI/KVAL TOWN OF VODENA. THE WOMEN ARE WASHING CLOTHES 




MARKET DAY IN VODENA. 



3ENA WAS THE ANCIENT CAPITAL OF MACEDON. 
KNOWN AS AIGAI 



GO UP TO THE SERBIAN FRONT 



71 



a parting of the ways — an open space of some kind 
and ran into a party of French soldiers, very hilarious, 
having just been turned out of a cafe at closing time. 
I explained my predicament. " Guard ! What does 
Monsieur want a guard for ? Some ladies with him. 
Bien, we will guard the ladies. Are we not quartered 
in the last house in the town close to Monsieur's cars ? 
The cafe is shut, and we are now returning there." 
They were very amusing on the way back and turned 
into their quarters with renewed protestations of guarding 
the ladies. In a way they did. They made noise enough, 
for they snored in concert and loudly all night ! 

As it was impossible to leave the cars unpro- 
tected on the road at night, if only from the point of 
view that transport might be expected up and down 
it (though as a matter of fact only a few soldiers passed), 
I saw that the head and tail lights were burning, and 
did sentry-go myself. It was a curious experience and 
not without interest. I spent most of the night tramping 
up and down the road, revolver in one hand and pipe 
in the other. The chief troubles were cold (it was 
bitter), dust blown up into one's nostrils whenever one 
sat down for a rest, and dogs. These latter barked and 
yapped all night and cruised round as near the camp as 
they dared. To some extent they helped to keep me 
warm, as I must have ckucked a cartload or two of 
stones at them during that long night. The unit 
slept — in fact, between ourselves, some of them snored. 
Somewhere about midnight I met a wraith on the 
road, a shivering wraith. It was one of the chauffeur 
girls. I asked her where her companion was. She did 
not know. But we unearthed her in the driving seat of 
the lorry, the aprons fixed up all round and warm as 



72 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



a toast ! I introduced the other into this roost amidst 
the indignant remonstrances of the occupier. That 
conversation lasted some time. 

With the dawn next morn, the grey dawn, the party 
woke, vowed they were frozen stiff, had never slept a 
wink all the night, etc. But I knew better. We collected 
some sticks, lit a fire and made some tea. It was 
suggested that the Scottish women should go off into 
the town and search for a hotel we had been told existed 
there and get a wash and if possible breakfast. They 
left me provided with tea, bully beef and biscuits, 
and set off at 6.30 presenting a remarkable sight as they 
trooped up the street. Having got rid of them I climbed 
into the driving seat of the lorry, shaved there comfortably, 
and then set off up the street to a fountain said to exist, 
where I washed before an interested audience of men, 
women, and children, attired in costumes which would 
have been the delight and despair of an artist. I break- 
fasted leisurely — there was nothing to be done as I was 
awaiting an answer to an urgent message sent off by the 
staff-sergeant the night before to his CO. for certain 
assistance. The party returned having had such wash 
and breakfast as the hotel afforded. Then we had a 
stroke of luck. A big French lorry passed up empty on 
its way to bring down a smashed aeroplane. Would he 
empty our stranded lorry for us and bring the bales and 
tent poles up to our present position ? He would and 
did, and earned our great gratitude. The stranded 
lorry was left to its fate with a Serbian soldier on guard 
and he remained there several days. We were packed 
so far as possible and ready for the road when about 
9 a.m. a small convoy of Ford cars in charge of two M.T. 
officers turned up to assist us. Our friend the staff- 




THE ENTRANCE TO VODENA — WHERE I SPENT THE NIGHT ON SENTRY-GO 



GO UP TO THE SERBIAN FRONT 73 



sergeant was told off to take the lorry on to Ostrovo if 
the feat was possible. The dump from the stranded 
lorry was to be left with a guard and our three ambu- 
lances were to go ahead, the rest of the party being 
brought along in the M.T. cars. We had varied experi- 
ences in the deep sand or rocky bridle paths which formed 
the " road " and, halting only when the cars boiled over 
or got choked with oil, the first two ambulances reached 
Ostrovo about 4 p.m., having run into our first sound 
of the booming guns about an hour before. We reported 
in Ostrovo to Colonel Milosavlovitch, head of the medical 
staff here, and were directed to the camp site about three 
miles away near the upper end of the lake. On arrival 
here we found a Serb infantry regiment encamped on 
the spot, but were told that they were to leave for the 
firing line at dawn next day. Our tent-pitching party 
of Serb soldiers sent on ahead were not present and were 
subsequently discovered in a camp three miles away, and 
we saw nothing of them that night. Our chief preoccu- 
pation was to get a tent up, and the lorry actually 
arrived, about half full only, before dark, driven by that 
magnificent man the staff-sergeant, who, somewhat ruffled 
in temper, said he was not taking on another job of 
that description, no, not for no Scottish women nor any 
other women. I could well believe it — it was a fine feat. 
We got up one tent, shared our meal with the M.T. 
people who had helped us, and turned in, with the 
sound of the guns thundering on the surrounding crests, 
My quarters were an ambulance filled with a miscel- 
laneous kit of various members of the party plus all our 
commissariat. I have already elsewhere briefly described 
the " road " between Vodena and Ostrovo asjt was at 
that time. Long tracts of deep sand alternated with 



74 



AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



rocky strata, projecting from the ground surface at all 
angles and of all sizes, over which we bumped agonizingly, 
were varied by deep cross-water channels into which 
we crashed and often stuck with a wearying monotony. 
I don't suppose there were fifteen yards of consecutive 
flat surface in the whole distance. Maddening as it 
was to be bumped over obstacles one could see coming, 
it was far worse to be shot out of one's seat going over 
them hidden in the deep sand. No road can ever present 
any terrors for those who have seen, and felt, the roads 
of Macedonia in their pristine glory. 

Ostrovo village, situated in the north-east corner 
of the lake, is a poor, rather squalid scattered village 
lying on the hillside with the railway station in the 
sandy waste at the foot on the shore of the lake, the single 
track of the railway line running down the east shore 
across the northern edge and then, as described already, 
up the western edge; where the track has been blasted 
out of the steep rocky mountain sides. The houses in 
Ostrovo are mostly built of rubble stone, with tiled roofs, 
its redeeming features being the graceful white minaret 
and its fine setting amongst the mountains, for as you 
approach it from the south the village is framed by the 
great mass of the Kajmaktcalan. 

The site allotted to us for our camp was some three 
miles to the south of Ostrovo, 200 to 300 yards from the 
southern end of the lake in the angle made by the railway 
approaching from the east, where it turns sharply north 
to run up the lake edge. The hills around the site were 
for the most part devoid of trees — barren, rocky, rugged 
masses. The actual site was in a small fold in a swelling 
in the cleft of the Voda valley, where it reaches the lake. 
The fold, running north and south, was bounded on 



GO UP TO THE SERBIAN FRONT 



75 



the south by the railway and road, to the north it ended 
in a small rocky eminence which I shall have occasion 
to allude to later. In the fold were some clumps of 
fine old elm trees arranged more less in double lines. 
They were the only trees of this kind and the only clumps 
within several miles. The site as a camp site was as 
fine a one as I had ever seen in a mountainous country. 
It had been used, as a matter of fact, by troops for some 
time past, both artillery and cavalry having been camped 
here for some months. It was well known to both 
Bulgar and German aeroplanes. And this was the only 
drawback to it for a hospital, as it intensified the risk 
of being bombed. However, there was nowhere else in 
the neighbourhood offering a tithe of its advantages, 
and it was selected accordingly. 

The orders were that the camp should be pitched 
under the trees so as to hide the tents from aeroplanes. 
A very short inspection of the area disclosed the fact 
that it would be next to impossible to carry out the order. 
It was easy enough for the Serbians to hide their tents 
beneath the trees, as they are of the tiniest — the men's 
only two feet six inches to three feet in height. The 
whole can be rolled up and carried on the back. Ours 
was a different problem. We had over a score of thirty 
feet by sixteen feet tents for the wards alone. You 
cannot hide tents of this size beneath trees, placed in 
double or single rows as these mostly were, and more 
especially when those trees are elms. 

There was a great difference in temperature up here, 
compared with Salonika. Although the sun was very 
hot during the day when we first arrived, necessitating 
wearing a helmet, the nights were quite cold and were 
destined to become still colder. 



76 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



We were up at dawn, and after a bully beef breakfast 
started to work, having only five Serbians to assist — the 
rest of that party being down with malaria. We had 
wired to stop the personnel from starting before Thursday, 
as it was obvious that the camp could not be got ready 
sooner. We had our first excitement up here this morning 
in an aerial combat overhead between a French and 
Bosche plane. The latter was making for Kajmaktcalan. 
We suddenly heard firing overhead, and glancing up 
saw two planes circling in the deep blue vault, the sun 
glistening on their wings as they caught its rays in their 
evolutions. Tiny puffs of smoke came from each for a 
time, and then one of them broke away and made off 
due west. As soon as it became evident that he was 
bolting, the Archibalds opened out on him, and tiny 
round white balls of smoke suddenly made their appear- 
ance in his neighbourhood. The balls appeared some- 
times behind, at others in front and under him, but never 
above, as he was climbing fast, and he eventually disap- 
peared in the blue ether unharmed. 

By about 4.30 we had got up four tents, all hands 
helping in the work, few of whom had ever tried that 
kind of thing before. We were finishing off No. 4 when 
a car appeared on the track below us, and from it, to our 
consternation, alighted Dr. Bennett. 

Our wire had not arrived in time, and all the unit 
was on the road and was expected to arrive that night ! 
They were coming up in a convoy of Ford vans. The 
five tents we had up, with the ambulances, would nearly 
take them all at a pinch, and mercifully the camp cots 
had been retrieved from the dump at Vodena, through 
some skilful diplomacy on the part of the chauffeur 
girls dispatched for that purpose earlier in the day. 



CAMP OF THE ADVANCE PARTY AFTER ARRIVAL AT OSTROVO ON THE 
SERBIAN FRONT 




THE UNIT PICNICKED FOR SOME DAYS AFTER ARRIVAL AT CAMP OSTROVO, 
AS NO TIME COULD BE GIVEN TO PITCHING THE MESS TENT 



GO UP TO THE SERBIAN FRONT 77 



But food was the serious question, the only article we 
knew there was plenty of was bully beef. The Com- 
missariat at this end had not yet been put in trim, 
potatoes, bread, etc., being absent. The personnel 
commenced to arrive about seven and continued to do 
so till 11 p.m., the remainder getting in next day. 
This latter lot spent the night on the roadside, shaking 
down in the Ford vans. The convoy got off with one 
accident only. One of the cars went over the side, being 
pulled up from a drop of several hundred feet by a small 
tree. There was only one orderly in the car, and she 
was badly bruised and suffered from shock. The Tommy 
driver got off scathless. The car had the worst of it. 
The supper started about 6.30 that night and went on 
till near midnight as fresh people dribbled in. My 
recollections are of putting together untold numbers of 
camp cots, carrying them about the ground, shoving them 
into tents, whose occupants said they were already full 
up and did not want them, and of arguing with members 
who said they proposed to sleep outside. We knew how 
cold it was up here and they did not. As we had only 
one or two lanterns, most of the business was done in 
darkness. Eventually, when the camp had got to bed 
after a fashion, I picked up a camp cot and by accident 
ran into the lorry in the dark. I remembered the lorry 
was empty, so hauling the cot into it I rolled up in my 
blankets and slept sound. 

At dawn next morn the scene that met my gaze, as 
I cautiously raised my head over the edge of the lorry, 
baffles description. A couple of girls were standing 
alongside an ambulance drawn up next to the lorry, 
out of which they had apparently just crawled, having 
slept all standing, as all had I suppose. Camp cots with 



78 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



recumbent forms or sitting up ones were scattered about 
the area, whilst over last night's camp fire three people 
were bending. I hadn't much to do except shave, which 
I did seated on the floor of the lorry, and then went to 
the spring to wash. Several of the Tommies who had 
driven up the convoy were engaged in their ablutions ; 
others were shaving close by, their mirrors propped up 
on the splashboards of the cars. A handful of Serbs 
stood watching the Tommies. About twenty yards 
away a knot of women, sitting upon some small rocks, 
a kerosene tin or two of water amongst them, were 
engaged in washing or in combing their hair. They 
were members of the unit ! It really was the funniest 
and most extraordinary sight I've ever looked upon — 
that camp of the Scottish women at Ostrovo on the 
first morning after their arrival. 

Washing over, we proceeded to breakfast — bully 
beef and sweet biscuits, taken standing under the trees. 
Breakfast over, tent-pitching began again in earnest, 
and all not wanted for other duties— doctors, nurses, 
etc., were pressed into the working parties in order to 
have more accommodation before nightfall. I had 
received orders to return to Salonika with the empty 
convoy to bring up the equipment, but a tent or two was 
put up before we left at 12.30, a small jar of bully beef 
for my dinner being packed in with me in case I didn't 
get in ! 



CHAPTER VIII 



TRANSPORT WORK IN MACEDONIA 

I left the camp in its initial stages of erection with 
extreme reluctance to return to Salonika to tackle the 
job of getting up the bulk of the equipment. It is extra- 
ordinary what a power the sound of guns fired in anger 
has over us, producing a thrill one would not be without. 
Of course that experience, like anything else, soon loses 
its novelty, but whilst the novelty is there one is loath 
to quit it. Consequently it was with a feeling of 
depression that I climbed into the first of the Ford vans 
and set out with the convoy on our 85-mile run over that 
vile road to Salonika. The orders were that the cars, 
some twenty in number, were to keep together (so far as 
possible). 

I started with a youngster who hailed from the 
" Elephant and Castle," in the Old Kent Road, close to 
which he had been born and reared. (How far it seemed 
away to us both, and with what affection in his voice he 
spoke of that salubrious locality !) An only son, he 
longed as earnestly to get back again as did his people 
to see him. I do not know what vocation he had followed 
in civil life or what his appearance had been, mere boy 
that he was. But there was no doubt what the Army had 
done for him. Smart as paint, alert, with clear fearless 
eyes, he will never be a drone in the hive when he returns. 



80 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



" I'm a Cockney, Sir, right down Cockney, and I wants 
to see 'ome and the 'ole Elephant again." And I hope 
he will. It was strange sitting talking to him of 
" Lunnon," as he steered the Ford over that impossible 
road. A matter of four miles we had gone when he 
looked back and pulled up. We had run out of sight of 
the convoy and " A tyre flat, I think, Sir." I got out, 
extracted my hold-all, and filled up our tobacco pouches. 
The second car, with another youngster at the wheel, hove 
in sight, and they set to work pumping up the tyre, but in 
the end had to change it. The rest of the convoy coming 
up, I transferred into the third van, and we started on 
again, the two receiving orders to push on and rejoin 
as • soon as ready. There was sure to be plenty more 
of that kind of thing amongst us before we saw the lights 
of Salonika ahead. My new driver was quite a different 
type, an older man by far, hailing from Scotland, I 
think, but what part I did not gather. He displayed a 
queer mixture of the most daring driving and curious 
timidity. We absolutely crawled when there was any- 
thing in the nature of a drop or precipice on either side of 
the road and crept down the big hill. On the level, no 
matter what the surface might be, and it was always 
pretty awful, he would go at anything from 30 to 40 miles 
an hour. We must have spent fully as much time in 
the air as in contact with the road, the Ford often 
bounding from rock to rock after the fashion of a goat, 
till every bone in my anatomy ached. But owing to 
the pace at which he drove ahead, as soon as we left the 
mountains, we had to constantly pull up to await the 
convoy, when his language, muttered below his breath, 
was an eye-opener. The stoppages for punctures and so 
on were numerous and irritating. 



TRANSPORT WORK ^MACEDONIA 81 



Some miles before we reached the outskirts of Vodena 
we passed a French ammunition convoy. We were in 
a winding rocky defile, and they were a fine sight as they 
came clattering up the stony track. The men on the 
teams and the escort, all inured to war, were tanned and 
hard as nails, many of the fair Normandy type with 
flowing beards and moustaches, giving them a wild 
handsome appearance. The view of Vodena from this 
side is particularly beautiful. The town is strung out 
against the skyline, for the bluff drops sheer on the other 
side, as I have already described, with some 8 to 10 slender 
white minarets, below which nestle the red-tiled, white- 
faced houses amongst tall thin poplars and groves of oak 
and chestnut. In front stretches the undulating hilly 
country, either wild and rugged or with small cultivated 
areas dropping down in the direction of the town. As 
we enter the town itself we are once again in the narrow 
tortuous streets with the great rough cobbles, cut up with 
cross gullies every 15 to 20 yards, whilst the overhanging 
eaves almost entirely shut out the sun. Children of all 
shades of colour, from the fair Northern type through 
shades of yellow to a dark tan, swarm around and play 
the same old child's game of pretending to push each 
other in front of the car. In the centre of the town is 
a giant old tree, at the juncture of four roads where the 
market is held, and here the Salonika road takes a sharp 
bend to the right, leading on to the great hill. Some one 
had nailed up a paper sign to the tree, with the one word 
" Ostrovo " on it and an arrow. How many thousands 
of fighting men have read that one word, knowing that 
it meant the road to the firing line whence they might 
never return ! 

On the hill we met a Serbian infantry regiment, the 

G 



82 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



men clad in their French blue overcoats with khaki 
beneath. A fine serviceable lot they looked, the officers 
very smart and mostly riding. In the plain below we 
passed their transport, the carts of the French pattern. 

The convoy " let 'em out," as they expressed it, on 
the more level road. Before reaching the Vertekop 
R.A.M.C. hospitals we came upon a Ford van on end, 
having gone through a broken bridge, or rather the place 
where the bridge had been many ages ago, into the river 
bed below. The bridge, a small affair, had been of two 
spans, with a strip of masonry wall built up in the river 
bed to take the spans. The top of the car rested against 
this wall, as the photograph depicts. Hard by sat its 
driver, a Tommy minus his helmet, but otherwise un- 
harmed. We halted, each of our drivers got out of his 
car, glanced at the smash, and then went up and without 
a word solemnly shook hands with the hero of the 
accident. For of course he ought to have broken his 
neck. Apparently some eighteen hours before he was 
steering for Salonika at night, without doubt scorching, 
when his career was suddenly abruptly terminated in 
this fashion. He had forgotten this place. There were 
so many broken bridges with small deviations round them 
in the fields or scrub at the side of the road. He had 
missed this one ! 

We got into a block in the traffic near the big hospitals. 
It was a broken bridge under repair, marshes on either 
side of us, and so no hope of getting round. The French 
engineers said they would have the road open in a couple 
of hours. They had already been on the job for three 
hours. Five hours' stoppage of all communication with 
this part of the front, for this was the only direct road, as 
I have explained. 



TRANSPORT WORK IN MACEDONIA 83 



I met here an officer of one of the hospitals and a 
couple of the nurses. They had come out on a foraging 
expedition for fruit, etc., but were held up. 

We were much amused here by watching a handful 
of poilus catching frogs in the marsh to serve as a dainty 
dish for their dinner. Frogs here grew to a large size 
and wore gorgeous livery, brilliant greens, yellows and 
browns, and already a score strung on a string had been 
captured. A five-foot stick, short string line with hook 
attached to end, and baited with a lump of dough, com- 
prised the fisherman's outfit, the bait being dangled 
before the frog's nose as he lay just beneath the surface 
of the water ; or more often the fisher endeavoured to 
get the hook and bait under the stomach or fore arm of 
the frog, and then by a sharp upward jerk to hook froggy 
up. Shrieks of laughter arose from the Frenchmen at 
each miss, or when froggy, agilely diving to the bottom, 
proved too much for his would-be captor. " Not 'avin 
any," was the way our own Tommies put it at each 
escape. Their remarks on the subject of eating frogs 
were delightful, if only for their caustic character. 

At length the planks were laid across the beams, and 
without waiting for them to be nailed on the delayed 
traffic was let loose across and we continued our journey, 
making a deviation which cost us an hour to pick up the 
men's rations from an M.T. unit stationed somewhere 
off the road — no one was very sure where. These rations 
ought to have reached the men yesterday. Consequently 
they had to be fed by us, and the camp when I left it was 
almost foodless, if we except bully beef. That and a few 
sweet biscuits was about all they had when I departed 
a small glass potted-meat jar filled with the b.b. being 
all they could give me as provisions for the road. Rations 



84 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



secured, we determined to run on as far as possible for 
the remaining hour of light and then have supper. Bread 
and jam was Tommy's meal. They offered me some of 
their bread, and magnificent stuff it was after over four 
days' course of b.b. and biscuit. The corporal politely 
refused my offer of bully. " No, thank you, Sir ; we see 
plenty of that." 

I watched the remains of a beautiful sunset gradually 
fading over the Vodena Hills, amongst which lay little 
Ostrovo, and night was upon us. " Give 'em a swing, 
boys," from the corporal (Good God ! what an order 
compared with the old time — " Stand to your horses, 
boys. Prepare to mount. Mount ! "), and we were off 
again. We had our head lights on now, and looking back 
the twin eyes at intervals on the unseen cars had a 
curiously uncanny appearance. I noticed this at the 
time, but the impression was far stronger in the wilder 
tracts in which we were subsequently to meet strings 
of them up country rushing up ammunition to the firing 
line. The sentry trouble began after dark. There were 
two main bridges over the Vardar River, the first we came 
to being known as the Chinaman's Bridge, as it was 
guarded by Annannese. As we approached this the 
Chinaman came out of his box and shouted out something. 
Tommy replied " Saloneeky," and continued advancing. 
Again the Chinaman shouted and took up a position in 
the middle of the road, bringing his rifle and bayonet 
down to the ready. Our head lights shone full on him 
and I didn't like his looks at all. I had seen in my time 
in the East quite enough of those " regrettable" incidents, 
with a dead officer or two as a result, not to be keen on 
adding another to the list. We still approached slowly, 
Tommy believing he had only to go on and keep shouting 



TRANSPORT WORK IN MACEDONIA 85 



" Saloneeky " to be allowed through. But the China- 
man didn't mean it, and I saw his finger on the trigger. 
Sharply ordering the man to pull up and leaning out I 
shouted in French, " From Ostrovo to Salonika. 
Friends." The Chinaman came up, inspected us and let 
us pass. I was told afterwards, what I full well realized 
at the time, that these Annannese were dangerous 
customers, shooting on the slightest provocation, aiming 
at the driver and usually hitting the passenger ! An 
obstinate man is a curse on such occasions. 

The next bridge was guarded by the French. The 
tactics of my driver were the same, to slowly approach, 
never pull up ; and shout " Saloneeky " at intervals. 
The Frenchman had a lot to say and skipped about on 
the roadway in front of his bridge, the glare of our lights 
upon him, rifle with its long tapering bayonet in one hand, 
the other waving in the air. I could not catch a word 
till we were quite close, by which time, the sentry was at 
white or rather red heat. Suddenly I caught one word 
" Cavalerie." " Cavalry." I exclaimed, " Cavalry on 
the bridge. Back, man, back at once." We reversed 
to the side of the road, leaving plenty of room, our head 
lights full on the bridge head. It was an inspiring sight 
we obtained and worthy of a Meissonier. A crack French 
cavalry regiment, newly landed, I fancy, on the march 
up to the Front. Great big men in light-coloured khaki 
jackets which shone almost white under our lights, steel 
helmets and jack-boots with long steel spurs. They 
carried rifle and bayonet and sword. The horses bore 
a very heavy equipment in addition to the long cavalry 
sword which was slung across the flank, kept in position 
by a girth so as to be out of the way and to prevent its 
jingling against the stirrup iron. The men were a hand- 



86 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



some type for the most part, many with long flowing 
beards and moustaches, the growth of which appears a 
common habit of the French on active service — out of 
France at any rate. And they sat their horses, many of 
which were white or grey, not a good campaigning colour, 
with the careless easy grace of the cavalryman inured to 
campaigning. In full campaigning kit, it was a fine sight 
to see the troopers, as file after file came to the head of 
the bridge and so into the glare of our lights, fling up a 
hand to the helmet to shield the eyes and sway to the 
sudden movements of their steeds ; then move onward 
through the band of strong light to disappear into the 
shadow and pass us as strong dim shapes. It was a 
magnificent spectacle. Some miles further on we met 
the regimental transport and its escort. They were 
halted at the side of the road for a rest, and as we slowly 
passed them one could take in every detail. If the 
French have many more cavalry regiments of this kind 
they should not do badly — that is, if cavalrymen are to 
ever have a show in this war, which looks more than 
doubtful. But this lot may get their chance up in the 
Monastir Plain, where they should give a good account 
of themselves. Bulgar cavalry have been operating 
there recently, from all accounts — or rather rumours. 

The rest of the journey was uneventful and we 
eventually arrived in Salonika at midnight. 

The next four days were spent in a turmoil. We had 
heard a whisper of a special train having been promised 
for the carriage of our equipment, but I had scarcely 
credited such luck. As a matter of fact there was not 
an atom of truth in it. 

Colonel Sondermeyer and his staff were ready to afford 
me all possible help, but the matter lay with the French. 



TRANSPORT WORK IN MACEDONIA 87 



They had promised the Serbian staff eight trucks, two 
a day for four days. This was the official promise and 
the official maximum. But it would only take from one- 
quarter to one-third of our equipment. I had brief 
interviews at G.H.Q. with the French Chef de Reseaux, 
a senior officer with the most suave and courteous manners, 
who informed me that such small matters were scarcely 
within his province, but went out of his way, with true 
French courtesy, to make inquiries ; and subsequently 
with his chief staff officer, to whom he sent me. The 
latter was very sorry, but — eight trucks were all that 
could be spared. I realized that I was, to use a slang 
expression, " up against it." It is impossible to mention 
names, unfortunately, but amongst the French, Serbian 
and English acquaintances, friends I would designate 
them, I had made, I thought a way might still be found. 
To one of the Frenchmen I explained the position of the 
personnel, away up there in the mountains with too few 
tents as yet to house them, with the bulk of their materials, 
including provisions, lying on the quay, and subsisting 
when I left, and at that moment for all I knew to the 
contrary, on bully beef and sweet biscuits. He screamed 
with laughter as I related my story — shut his eyes and 
roared — then opened them to take a glance at my serious 
face telling my story, for I was in deadly earnest then, 
shut them and roared again, mopping his brow the while 
(it was very hot and he was in shirt sleeves — the office 
kit). At length at the end he spluttered out, " Oh les 
dames Ecossaises et le bullee bif," and went off again, 
wiping the tears from his eyes. To that fortunate 
description (for he proved a good friend) may be attri- 
buted the fact that in one way and another a good many 
more railway trucks than eight went off up country 



88 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



loaded with hospital equipment. On the fourth day, 
when I looked to be in the town for several days more, 
the quite unexpected and powerful help of an English 
friend made a clean sweep of the rest. We worked from 
6 a.m. to 10 p.m. that day, the last waggons after being 
sealed up being hauled off from the docks to the railway 
station at 10 p.m. by a light engine sent for the purpose. 
It was a funny job transport work in Macedonia at that 
time — a purely hand-to-mouth existence. A couple of 
days later, even a day, and we could not have had a 
truck for love or money, for the big advance had begun 
on our wing, and the Salonika- Ostrovo Railway was 
closed to everything save the carriage of ammunition 
and military stores. Our waggons were the last to go 
up. For several weeks to come nothing outside the 
material for the fighting forces was carried. Truly 
Dame Fortune was kind to us. 

I left the quay at 10 o'clock and returned to the 
hotel, where I packed up my kit and got from the pro- 
prietor the provisions previously ordered to be put up 
for me, since nothing in the way of food would be pro- 
curable till the camp at Ostrovo was reached and the 
time the train would take to get up there was in the 
lap of the Gods. A Salonika cab was fetched, a vehicle 
reminiscent of the ticca gharry of Calcutta and the East, 
driven by a Greek, more extortionate even than any of 
the evil tribe. We reached the station at 11 p.m. and 
got a seat, one of the only two remaining in the one first- 
class carriage on. The train did not leave till 12.37 a.m., 
but I had been warned to arrive in time. Four Serbian 
officers occupied the carriage and a very nice set of 
companions they proved themselves to be. Two had 
answered my queries as to whether there was room in 



TRANSPORT WORK IN MACEDONIA 89 



French, so I felt relieved on the score of future conversa- 
tion, my Serbian being confined to a few words picked 
up from the Serbian soldiers on the quay. They were 
nice, these Serbian soldiers. I had a most hearty farewell 
from the section who had been on guard over the dump 
on the quay for three weeks. They had had a precious 
hard time of it during that period, and yet I really think 
they were as sorry to see the last of me as I was to leave 
them. However, some of us met again up country later 
on. 

I took stock of my companions. Opposite me sat 
a colonel wearing the Serbian decoration. Next to him 
a big broad-shouldered man of aristrocratic countenance, 
a cavalry officer. Next to him a different type of man, 
also a colonel of infantry, evidently of the peasant class, 
for he treated the others, juniors as well as the senior 
colonel, with deference. Opposite him sat a fat smallish 
man with a round rubicund jovial face, and head cropped 
a la Bosche. He turned out one of those jolly fellows, 
met with in every country and every walk of life, whom 
nothing puts out, always full of talk and wit. He 
maintained two-thirds of the conversation, and read 
extracts from the French and Serbian papers, with many 
comments, till one after the other, his companions 
finally gave up smoking cigarettes and fell asleep, coiled 
up on their seats in the most extraordinary attitudes. 
I could not sleep for some time, overtired I suppose from 
my long day in the sun. A fifth man, a Serbian subaltern, 
got in before we left and fell asleep almost at once, rather 
overpowered by the company of so many seniors, I fancy. 
The crowd outside below us, there was no platform, 
proved interesting. It was entirely composed of French 
and Serbian soldiers, all fully accoutred, a great part 



90 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



of whom were travelling by the train ; a happy-go-lucky 
throng, gaily chattering and laughing and filling up the 
carriages " on their own," for there were no officers in 
command to tell them off after our orderly fashion. 

We pulled slowly out, punctually for a wonder, the 
countryside for the first few miles a sea of tents, brilliant 
under the light of a full moon. 

I woke up just as dawn was breaking. We were 
halted at a station. My companions were still asleep. 
I looked out. The door on our side had been open all 
night. The colonel had tried to shut it once, but there 
was something wrong with its works ; so it was left. 
There was more important work than mending broken 
doors to be done. But imagine the thoughts of a guard 
on one of our fast expresses at home at a door of one of 
his carriages being left open all night to bang at its sweet 
will ! The eastern horizon was blood-red with dark 
streaks across it. Just opposite ourcarriage stood a sentry 
leaning on his rifle, fast asleep. Some Serbian soldiers 
walked up and down the platform, others were asleep 
in the station yard, whilst beyond on the road a French 
battery of light field guns, men, animals and guns covered 
with white dust, were passing at a slow trot. By their 
dusty and travel-stained appearance they had evidently 
accomplished a long march. The rays of the rising sun 
threw them into strong relief, glinting on sabre, bit and 
spur. I sank back in my seat and wondered when we 
should move. The Serbian officers gradually awakened 
and I then discovered that we had been there for three to 
four hours and were only thirty kilometres from Salonika. 
These officers were apparently only going to Vertekop 
and should have nearly arrived there by now. However, 
one had learnt not to worry at delays. I got out to have 



TRANSPORT WORK IN MACEDONIA 91 



a look round. The station house, the only building to 
be seen, was covered with a giant wisteria in full bloom. 
In the yard was a drinking pipe spouting water, and two 
young Serbian cavalry officers were having a wash. I 
proceeded to do likewise, and meeting the French 
station-master afterwards, asked him how long we should 
be there. " Two hours, monsieur." " Is there a cafe ? " 
" Yes, monsieur." " Where ? " I asked. No house was 
to be seen save a long tumble-down building about fifty 
yards away, looking like a cattle shed ; but I now noticed 
a door and small window near the centre of the building. 
Said the station-master, " The cafe is in that ! " I started 
off towards it, but remembering my Serbian friends, 
returned to the station. " The station-master says we 
shall be here two hours and there is a cafe." " A cafe ! " 
they exclaimed as one man and jumped up. Led by the 
senior colonel, we approached the building and a nearer 
look was not inviting. It was a hovel. The colonel 
pushed open the door and entered, followed by the rest 
of us. And what a sight met our gaze ! Picture a room 
about 14 by 12 feet, mud-walled, low-ceiled, provided 
with small dirty fixed wooden tables of the crudest 
construction, a few short forms and stools, and packed 
with French and Serbian soldiery evidently off the train. 
To the left of the door as you entered was the window, 
hermetically sealed. What the atmosphere consisted 
of I could not say. It was a thick grey with smoke, and 
certainly did not consist of any variety of air I had 
previously made acquaintance with. Across the corner 
next the window was a tiny bar ; behind it in the corner 
a raised fireplace about three feet six inches high, on 
which the coffee was prepared, and between the two was 
mine host, a tall, sallow-complexioned, black-haired, 



92 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



shifty-faced Jewish Greek with a smirk — half-leer, half- 
grin — on his forbidding features. On the counter were 
some half-dozen bottles of various fiery liquors, of which 
old cognac, or so the label called it, was the only one 
recognisable. At our entrance mine host hurriedly came 
out of the bar, bowed deeply, and put on a broader smirk. 
The soldiers nearest us rose and quickly shifted, so as 
to leave one of the dirty little tables and a few stools 
vacant. The rest took no notice of us, save that the 
momentary lull in the conversation ended in a louder 
row than ever. Said the major, who instinctively took 
command here, " What drinks ? Coffee and cognac ? " 
They appeared safest — in fact, the only ones. The coffee 
was made a la Turque, of course. You see nothing else 
in this country. The order was soon fulfilled, tiny 
Turkish coffee cups, cognac, and a thick dirty tumbler 
of doubtful water being placed in front of each of us. 
Nothing to be had in the way of food. The coffee was 
fair, the cognac, in glasses of liberal size, was strong and 
fiery. I don't think any of us noticed the first glass. 
My companions drank theirs at a gulp, then took a gulp 
of water and then the coffee. I learnt a lot about the 
present positions on the Western wing (our wing, for the 
hospital was attached to the third Serbian Army), both 
French and Serbian, of which I shall have something to 
say later. Neither of the colonels spoke French, but 
the other three did. Very soon the senior colonel 
invited us to drink with him, but that second cognac 
was my last. I thought two raw cognacs at 6 a.m. — it not 
being our habit to start thus early — was enough. " C'est 
la Guerre," said the major, in offering a third one. They 
went the round, however, and for myself the coffee was 
very welcome. They resolutely refused to let me bear 



TRANSPORT WORK IN MACEDONIA 93 



my share in these early morning potations, when the 
station-master appeared at the door to announce the 
departure of the train, the Major saying, " You found 
the cafe and it is well that we should pay." The way 
the men drank that fiery cognac as if it had been water, 
was extraordinary. One old Serb soldier sitting near 
us was addressed by the colonel. He had apparently 
been in a recent fight up in the Moglena Mountains and 
gave a graphic description of it, sitting half turned 
to us, smoking a cigarette and sipping his cognac in free 
and easy fashion as man to man, but without a suspicion 
of cheek in his attitude. It was taken as a matter of 
course. The men had thinned out before we left, when 
the door opened and a Greek appeared with the inn's 
daily bread — a dozen flat Serbian loaves. The remaining 
soldiers jumped up and fell upon the man, but the major, 
with the quickness born of long campaigning, had one 
under his arm in a twinkling and, laughing, went out 
with it, throwing the man a coin. We got into our 
carriage and the train got under way. " Now we'll 
have some dejeuner," I remarked, and proceeded to get 
out my stock of provisions. They all exclaimed at this 
— " What about your dinner ? You may not get to 
Ostrovo to-night." I retorted with the Major's remark, 
" C'est la Guerre." I had half a dozen boiled eggs, one 
apiece, a lot of ham, butter, cheese, and a long French 
roll. My beer I found had been left behind, or more 
probably the cabby had stuck to it. But the major 
produced all they had between them, save the Seroian 
loaf — a bottle of good claret. We made a most excellent 
dejeuner, and they were profuse in their thanks for what 
was after all a very small return for their kindness. A 
Russian regiment was halted for the morning meal close 



94 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



to the station at Verria — a magnificent lot of men, most 
interested in seeing Serbian soldiers. At Vertekop I 
parted with my pleasant companions, who greatly re- 
gretted that they were not coming up to the front. 
" But we'll soon be following." 

Here I found to my disgust that the first-class carriage 
went no further. To get up the mountainous part of 
the line the train was cut down to a minimum, and I had 
to travel in one of the ambulance waggons, the only place 
left. The other three and a half of the present one were 
filled with some of our bales and boxes. This was one 
of the ways I had been getting my material up country 
for the past four days, as soon as I heard that these four 
ambulance waggons returned empty daily to Ostrovo. 
Picturesque from a scenic point of view as this section 
of the line is, it was a wearying journey. The train, up 
the steep inclines, goes a bare four miles an hour, halts 
at intervals, the engines panting and groaning like 
human beings. The railway is a purely strategic one. 
It could never pay, and what the cost of building it was 
I should hesitate to say. The viaducts, short in length 
but of considerable height, are numerous and must alone 
have added immensely to the expense ; as also the 
numerous rock cuttings. It is lucky that the Bulgarians 
did not take Ostrovo and get down here. If they had 
blown up a few of the viaducts there would have been 
no campaign this summer on the Western front, that is 
certain. They are all guarded now by Serbians, but I 
was told that they had been left unguarded till quite 
recently, difficult as it is to give credence to the tale. 

As we climbed higher and got further into the hills, 
we picked up the music of the guns again, and as we drew 
nearer Ostrovo their volume sounded louder than when 



TRANSPORT WORK IN MACEDONIA 95 



I left six days before. From all accounts I have got 
back just in time. The first advance is now about to 
begin, and glad I was to have got back before the start. 
We arrived in Ostrovo that night, and Mrs. Harley, whose 
transport unit had made their headquarters at the station, 
kindly gave me a lift out to the camp. 



CHAPTER IX 



CAMP OSTROVO — THE BATTLE OF GORNICEVO 

I arrived back just in time ! 

The Big Push by the Serbians on this wing commenced, 
and that it was one of first-class importance was exempli- 
fied by the fact that General Sarrail arrived at Ostrovo 
the following morning and the Prince Regent of Serbia 
at mid-day. I have said that I noticed the difference 
in the volume of sound from the big guns as we approached 
Ostrovo. They were hard at it all night on the crests 
to the north and west of us without intermission. 
Early in the morning Archibald (the anti-aircraft) 
opened fire on a Bosche or Bulgar aeroplane flying over 
our camp, but did not bag it. All day the guns thundered 
round us, and an attack was to be made at night by the 
Serbians on the Bulgar position on the Gornicevo ridge, 
the eastern limit of their recent advance from the 
Monastir plain. 

There is a small rocky hill at the back of and to the 
north of our camp site, or the part of it feasible for 
pitching tents on, for the ridge is within our boundary. 
My duties kept me too busy in the camp superintending 
the tent pitching to allow me to ascend the hill and 
watch the guns at work during the day, but I promised 
myself a visit there after dark. 

The unit had been hard at work during my absence. 



THE BATTLE OF GOENICEVO 97 



We had sent up in the first consignment despatched 
after my return to Salonika, a number of the staff tent 
bales and poles, and consequently a few more of these 
had been pitched, and the personnel had now sufficient 
tents up to put them all under cover, though they were 
still pretty crowded and, I was not long left in ignorance, 
more than a bit uncomfortable. But then you can't 
expect to come up to the front and get all the fun and 
have feather-beds to lie on or hot water to wash in for 
that matter — or hot baths. But the baths question or 
their absence remained a sore one for many a day — 
though there was always the beautiful Lake Ostrovo 
with its gorgeous colouring to bathe in, even though 
you did sink well over the ankles in soft slimy mud to 
get into it, and the temperature of the water compared 
very unfavourably with the soft warm luxurious Mediter- 
ranean. Two of my doctor friends bathed in it, however, 
for days after their arrival. 

Work had already commenced on the wards, two 
of the twenty ward tents having been put up under the 
supervision of a young Serb engineer officer. They had 
to come down again, however. For one thing the plan 
of the hospital portion of the camp was changed and 
changed for the better by Dr. Bennett after we had 
consulted long and earnestly on the subject. 

We had made plans at home, more than one, indi- 
cating exactly where each tent should be. But the plans 
were made for level ground, and they were made on the 
definite understanding that they should be scrapped if 
the ground did not fit the plan, the only way to put up a 
moderately large camp of some seventy to eighty tents 
like ours. All our plans were scrapped, as will be described 
later. The second reason for repitching the two ward 

H 



98 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



tents lay in the fact that tent-pitching is an art only 
to be acquired by long practice. Place the pegs wrong or 
start pitching a big tent, or a small one for that matter, 
without first definitely settling upon the place for the 
guide pegs and ropes, and the whole erection will have 
the appearance of a badly built house of cards made by a 
child ; and moreover it will share the same fate in the 
next high wind. Most of our ground had to be levelled 
before the tents could be erected on the sites chosen, 
and that meant a lot of heavy work. Parties were on 
this work all day, but one working party re-erected the 
two ward tents. No mess tent was got up, nor could we 
give time to put one up for several days. The unit 
picnicked in the open near the camp fire, a wood fire. 
How the cooking staff under Miss Kerr grappled with 
their own special difficulties was always a source of 
amazement to me. Cooking for sixty people is no joke. 
We had several showers of rain that day to add to the 
discomfort. One at supper time. The second, a big heavy 
one, came on in the late afternoon, and all hands were 
turned on to digging drains round the tents, many of 
which were flooded out, including Dr. Bennett's, who 
was lying seedy on her cot, a not surprising result of her 
three weeks' strenuous work in Salonika. 

The guns increased their intensity of fire towards 
nightfall, in preparation for the final attack on the 
Gornicevo ridge and village which was to shortly take 
place. We had been warned that we might be bombed. 

Before describing what we saw of this fight, I will 
briefly indicate the position of the Allied lines at this 
juncture. A connected narrative of the campaign 
between the beginning of August and third week in 
November will be found in a later chapter. 



DR. SCOTT AND S.W.H. AMBULANCES AT THE GORNICEVO-KKUSOGRAD ROAD 
DRESSING STATION, OCT. 1915 




EFFECT OF SERBIA 



THE STONE-BUILT HOUSES IN GORNICEVO 



THE BATTLE OF GORNICEVO 99 



At the commencement of August, the Bulgars made 
up their minds to come out of their fortified lines just 
on the other side of the Greek frontier and attack the 
Allies, whom they were fully aware were making strenuous 
preparations to attack them. 

From the latter part of July fierce fighting had 
been taking place up in the Moglena Mountains, to the 
north of Vodena, in which the Serbian Army Corps had 
taken up positions facing the Bulgars, the Serbian line 
stretching westward below the Kajmaktcalan crest, 
an exceedingly strong position situated immediately 
north of our camp, and from there on over the mountains 
to Verbeni and Fiorina in the Monastir plain. About 
the middle of August the Bulgars endeavoured to turn 
the Allies' western flank by advancing south down the 
Monastir plain, driving in the Serbian outposts in Verbeni 
and Fiorina, capturing Banitsa in the S.E. corner of 
the plain, and then advancing up the hills and taking 
Gornicevo village and crest overlooking Lake Ostrovo, 
their line stretching from here south to the western 
shore of the Lake. In this advance they had captured 
the length of railway running from Fiorina S.E. to 
Ekshisu, and a little to the east of the latter. The left 
wing of the Serbs had taken up a position on a lower 
crest to the east of Gornicevo ridge immediately above 
the Lake. The French were advancing up the Lake road 
and railway and also by the Verria — Kozani route, 
thus supporting the Serbian left. The Serbs' objective 
to-night was to recapture the Gornicevo ridge and 
village. 

After supper (we dined at noon and supped at 6.30), 
I climbed up the small rocky ridge, a matter of 200 to 300 
yards only, from which a complete view of Kajmaktcalan 



100 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



to the north and the Gornicevo ridge across the lake to 
the west is obtained, the camp being encircled by 
mountains all in full view from this eminence. The 
centre of operations to-night, now commencing, lay on 
the western ridge, only desultory artillery fire taking 
place to the north. The crest of the hills to the west 
could scarcely be more than four or five miles away as 
the crow flies, and this line was lit up by the flashes of 
the guns. 

Our first battle was commencing. 

Cloud masses lay here and there in the valley below ; 
in the east the moon had not yet risen above a bank of 
clouds on the horizon. A number of Serbian soldiers 
sat about on the rocks, men from the half-company of 
pioneers told off to the camp for tent-pitching, etc., 
smoking and talking in low voices. I had not been up 
there five minutes, in what by contrast may be termed 
a lull in the artillery fire, when the guns opened again 
in real earnest, and the whole mountain crest and down 
the sides was lit up by almost continuous flashes, as guns 
of all calibre, including the French 75's, which were most 
numerous, joined in. There appeared to be only two 
really heavy guns — howitzers. I saw these a day or 
two later being dragged by motor lorries down a vile 
mountain road en route to their new position against 
Kajmaktcalan. When they spoke there was no mistaking 
their voice, and one could hear the great shells go whirring 
and rumbling on their journey. Shortly after the first 
machine-guns joined in, but soon ceased. A half-hour 
elapsed and then the real attack commenced due west. 
A gust of rifle fire suddenly opened and passed along the 
crest, to be at once joined by the rat-tat-tat-tat of 
the machine-guns. The whole crest and upper part of 



THE BATTLE OF GOENICEVO 101 



the hillside was lit with a continuous flashing, whilst star 
shells — white, green and yellow — soared up along the 
length of the line. Ten minutes of pandemonium, and 
then quite suddenly the light went out and the rifle fire 
ceased, to be taken up, however, almost immediately 
on the left. The guns joined in again, with scrappy rifle 
and machine-gun fire to the right. One endeavoured 
with glasses to pierce across the intervening space to 
make out what was going on on that open rocky moun- 
tain side ; for of cover for the Serbians in the advance 
there was none. Men were falling over there and were 
at death grips, and but little quarter would be given or 
asked for. For this is a true racial fight this between 
the Serb and Bulgar, and the former are embittered by 
the ruin to which their country is being subjected under 
Bulgar occupation. Undying enmity rules here, and the 
Serbs, fighting to get back into their country, are in a 
dangerous mood. And whilst men were at death grips 
before us just across the lake on our side the scene was 
a very peaceful one. The moon, now risen above the 
cloud bank, flooded with silver the slope in front, covered 
with coarse grass and scattered low outcrops of rock. 
Over the top of the low ridge in front a strip of the lake 
showed, turned to molten silver, and beyond reared up 
the dark hill on whose sides and crest the struggle was 
being enacted. To the north grim Kajmaktcalan, so 
soon to be the scene of a giant struggle, was hidden in 
a black storm cloud ; whilst south on the other side of 
the French aviation camp, only separated from us by 
the railway line, two searchlights placed in the hills 
immediately above the flying camp searched the heavens 
for aeroplanes. But for hell let loose on the opposite 
crest, the scene was as beautiful as a moonlit stretch 



102 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



of mountainous country ever is. Now one paid but 
scant attention to it. The fight on yonder crest held 
one enthralled. Again the rifle and machine-gun fire 
died down and the big guns took up the game, redoubling 
their energies. I saw the battle field some days later. 
It was the wire entanglement, a stout erection a couple 
of yards broad and cris-crossed with stout wire armed 
with three to four barbs — a devilish place to have to try 
and cross, that was giving the trouble. The artillery 
was neither sufficiently heavy nor abundant enough to 
smash it up. It was only broken in a very few 
places. The pluck of the Serbs in advancing in the open 
up that barren rocky mountain side and carrying that 
crest, the shallow trench cut out of the broken rock on 
the Bulgar side of the wire presented no difficulties, 
was magnificent. But all this could not be seen to- 
night. For a quarter of an hour the guns kept at it, 
firing salvoes in unison, in some cases, with ear-splitting 
crashes. The moon suddenly clouded over and a smart 
shower of rain fell, but only on us luckily. The crest 
remained cloudless throughout the fight, which was 
extraordinarily fortunate ; for in these mountains the 
whole scene might have been so easily blotted out by 
misty clouds. It got very cold after the rain, but none 
of us noticed it. The rifle-firing restarted on the extreme 
left, kept going for some time, and then was overpowered 
by the pandemonium which quite suddenly broke out 
immediately in front on the highest part of the crest, 
just in the neighbourhood of Gornicevo village, in fact. 
Every form of gun, rifle and bomb took up the tale here, 
following the appearance of a red star shell, which sud- 
denly soared aloft. This attack was proceeding on a 
considerable front, the dull sounds of the guns and the 



THE BATTLE OF GORNICEVO 103 



sharper crackle of the rifle fire reverberating amongst 
the mountains, and echoing and re-echoing from many a 
rocky face and peak. It was the repeated clashing of the 
advancing and returning waves of sound that gave rise 
to the prodigious din, adding enormously to the sound 
of the guns actually engaged. Was it the final assault ? 
we wondered. This attack lasted much longer than any 
of its predecessors, was far more fiercely contested, and 
when it did die down it was not followed in this length 
by any others. Isolated points were attacked or con- 
tinued the fight, but the main action here was evidently 
over. I glanced round at the Serbs during its progress. 
They were all standing motionless, sharply silhouetted 
against the brilliant moonlight, for the cloud had passed, 
necks craned forward, their eyes glistening in their heads 
and faces drawn, as they watched that fight and pictured 
the scenes well known to them all, for they had been 
in the previous fights in Serbia, which were taking place. 
Although minor fusillades burst out both to the left and 
right of the main centre, once it became evident that 
that was over a voluble conversation broke out amongst 
the Serbians. They were evidently under the impression 
that the advance had been successful and that Gornicevo 
had been captured, and with it some thirty guns. 

Next morning we knew that this was the case. 
Counter-attacks in this country there could be none, 
as once the only line of defence was broken and taken, 
a hurried retreat on the part of the enemy in this 
case to the hills to north and north-west, was all 
that was open to them. The rumble of the guns 
with momentary bursts of rifle fire lasted most of the 
night, but the real show was over. As I turned to 
descend the hill our little camp, of less than a score 



104 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



of tents as yet, looked very peaceful, their brand-new 
convas gleaming brilliantly white 'neath the moonlight 
against the dark foliage of the trees. And yet so soon 
it was to be full of wounded and anguish, of operations 
skilfully performed, and of death. 

A few days later I went up to Gornicevo to the 
dressing station with one of the ambulances going up to 
bring back wounded. The work of our Ford ambulances 
was wonderful, as amazing as were the awful mountain 
tracks they had to operate on. They merit a chapter 
to themselves later on. 

Ostrovo village is situated in the N.E. corner of the 
lake above a sandy waste, containing the deepest and 
most penetrating fine sand it has ever been my lot to 
meet. It beats the Egyptian and Baluchistan deserts. 
This sandy waste at the foot of the village was always 
occupied by camping troops, and the sand was thus 
constantly in motion in swirling dust wreaths, bad enough 
under a hot sun, but far worse under a strong breeze. 

The road up to the Gornicevo ridge and village after 
leaving Ostrovo skirts the north edge of Lake Ostrovo 
through the deep sand, and then takes up the mountain 
side through a couple of rocky defiles, one so long and 
steep that the cars had to be halted to cool once or twice ; 
they also got flooded with oil from the bumping from 
rock to rock, the brakes gave out, punctures were too 
common to record, and every ill to which cars are heir, 
and other new ones, arose with maddening frequency. 
Before mounting to the steep Gornicevo ridge a lower 
ridge is passed. Along this the Serbians took up their 
stand when they fell back from Gornicevo in August. 
To attack the Bulgars they had to advance down this 
ridge, cross a few stony fields in a hollow, and then climb 



THE BATTLE OF GORNICEVO 105 



up the long rocky face of the hillside, absolutely bare 
but for a low scrub here and there which afforded no 
shelter, to attack the position protected by the stout 
barbed wire entanglement which stretched right across 
the mountains for miles just below the far side of the 
crest. The makeshift trenches of the Serbs could scarcely 
be dignified by this name. Small shallow excavations 
protected by low hastily-built walls of rocks or stones 
or sungars, after the Afridi pattern, the gun pits being 
little better. One viewed this area of operations with 
astonishment, for it seemed impossible that men could 
advance over it in the face of the murderous fire of 
modern weapons and reach the crest above, especially 
when, as was the case here, the artillery support was very 
weak. As one approaches the ridge a prominent white 
square building standing alone on the crest just off the 
road becomes visible. This made a fine target for the 
Serbian gunners and is now but a shell, the wire running 
just in front of it. The road or track, for it had scant 
resemblance to a road, was blocked with transport of 
every description, ammunition caissons and carts with 
teams of six and eight horses, horses, mules, donkeys, 
small powerful French motor lorries, and Ford vans 
carrying ammunition. Parties of soldiers and individuals 
mounted and on foot toiled upwards, and a Serbian 
infantry regiment on the way to the front took an 
interminable time to get past in the jam and confusion 
of that narrow rocky mountain way. All the aftermath 
of a battle was littered round — shell cases, piles of them 
in heaps or scattered about over the road and the sides 
of the hills, rifle ammunition, trench helmets and caps, 
knapsacks and clothing, with here and there dead 
artillery horses. Now and then small cemeteries were 



106 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



passed with neatly cemented graves surmounted by 
little crosses, made during the previous months of the 
Serbian occupation. There were others of more recent 
origin, little hurriedly-made mounds with a roughly- 
made cross on them, which told only too poignantly 
their recent formation. 

The road improved near the crest of the hill and we 
ran over the top past the roofless white house, the walls 
full of shell holes, and came into view of Gornicevo 
village, a long pretty little place, nestling in a fold in the 
hills, the houses of brick or rubble, with red tile roofs, 
the tiles placed in vertical rows. There is one big square- 
towered edifice, the church, of the shape usual in these 
parts. The inhabitants are Greeks, a poor lot, pro-Bulgar. 
The Serbs say that the inhabitants killed all the Serbian 
wounded when the latter had to retreat last month, and 
I can well believe it of them if looks go for anything. 
Some of the houses had been knocked about by gun fire, 
but the village had suffered wonderfully little. On the 
hillside at the back of it the line of Bulgar trenches and 
the wire entanglement were visible and we walked up 
to inspect them. We went through the outskirts of 
the village and then climbed the rough hillside beyond. 
The trenches were shallow affairs dug out of the almost 
solid rock, never more than five feet deep, and their 
preparation must have been hard work. They were 
protected to some extent by short lengths of rough, 
loosely built stone walls. The barbed-wire entanglement 
was evidently relied on as the chief protection, erected 
at some fifteen to fifty yards in front of the trench. The 
few holes cut through it were easily discernible, and as 
the Serbs topped the ridge in front, it must have been 
a murderous business before they got the Bulgars on 



THE SHELL OF THE WHITE HOUSE ON THE GORMCEVO CREST, WITH WIRE 
ENTANGLEMENT, ALMOST INTACT, IN FRONT. THE .MEN ARE FRENCH 




THE BATTLE OF GORNICEVO 107 



the run. The fighting, they told us, was terrific, and 
nothing but the spirit of revenge and deadly hatred 
animating the Serbs could have made that advance a 
possibility. What their losses were I never learnt, 
but our doctors know what the wounds were like. 
The poor little dressing station here, consisting of a 
handful of small bell tents, was overflowing with 
wounded. With the exception of a few carts, the ambu- 
lances of Mrs. Harley's transport column stationed in 
Ostrovo village and our own were the only ones dealing 
with them. 

The trenches and ground round were littered with 
battle debris — Bulgar cartridges in thousands, shell 
cases, unexploded shells, clothing, Bulgar caps, belts, 
knapsacks, pouches, gas masks, battered trench helmets 
and broken rifles. Only the serviceable rifles and 
bayonets had been already collected. Close by the 
white house the guns taken in the fight were parked 
before being sent down to Ostrovo. I picked up a 
brand-new Turkish knapsack taken from the Turks by 
the Bulgars in the war four years ago and now served 
out to the Bulgarian Infantry. And the Bulgars and 
Turks now Allies ! Wonder what they really think of 
each other ? 



CHAPTER X 



GETTING UP THE CAMP. THE FALL OF FLORIN A 

It was a rough, hard life the Scottish women led during 
the first few weeks up at Ostrovo ; and all honour to 
them that they went through with it cheerfully. The 
life was all the harder because the pressure of work was 
incessant and long hours were essential to the fulfilment 
of their part of the business of war. 

The Battle of Gornicevo settled the matter. The 
wounded were lying out on the mountain side, and it 
was imperative that they should be got to a hospital. 
The erection of the ward tents had to take precedence 
over everything in order that the hospital might be 
opened without delay. The comfort of the unit had 
therefore to be relegated to a secondary place till the 
other piece of work had been put through. 

The camp was situated some three miles from Ostrovo 
and the railway station, and as the station-master had 
decided that trains could not be stopped as they passed 
the camp to unload waggons, the latter were subse- 
quently run back with a light engine and unloaded by 
the Serbian working parties. This had been the pro- 
cedure during my absence, but they had never had more 
than three waggons to deal with at any one time. Our 



PITCHING THE CAMP— FLORINA 109 



last lot comprised eight, and this necessitated turning 
out every available man and woman in the camp to help 
in unloading. Half an hour was all the time allotted 
to us for the job, on the expiry of which the French 
guard had orders to take the trucks back to Ostrovo 
whether empty or no. It was a strenuous piece of work 
that, undertaken in the hottest part of the day. Two 
of the doctors, Drs. Scott and Muncaster, turned out to 
assist the checkers (for the benefit of the uninitiated, who 
may not quite realize what this means, I may say that 
the doctors of a hospital are the Brass Hats of the unit), 
thereby showing, as they did over the tent pitching, 
and in many other ways, that the women officers of a 
unit are every bit as ready as the British officer to take 
their coats off. No, I don't mean that — take their 
gloves off. No, a man can't express it, but you know 
what I mean — and work in with the rank-and-file. Some 
of the nurses also gave yeoman help, and the orderlies 
worked with their usual grit. We found that unloading 
eight waggons, four of them fifteen-ton ones, was no picnic. 
The tent flooring alone ran to some 650 odd pieces each 
7 feet by 3 feet. Everything was dumped out on to the 
side of the line, and we got finished in three-quarters of 
an hour, the guard, a very nice Frenchman, giving us the 
extra time, but slyly blowing his horn at intervals, just 
to keep us up to the mark. Our one lorry worked all 
day for the next three days transferring the stuff to the 
camp a quarter of a mile away, and that gigantic dump 
remained the bane of our lives for many a week to come, 
any bales or boxes required being invariably at the 
bottom. It may be said here that our equipment was 
as near perfect as man could devise when unknown 
conditions are considered. 



110 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



And the praise for this is due to the fine organisation 
of the Scottish Women's Hospitals. Too high praise 
cannot be given to the methods upon which the Com- 
mittee in Edinburgh, presided over by Miss S. E. S. Mair, 
carry out their work, nor to the indefatigable manner 
and efficiency in which the organising secretary, Miss 
Kemp (whose health broke down under the great strain, 
Miss May taking her place), Dr. Russell, and that hard- 
working lady in charge of the equipment, Miss Swanston 
(who stuck me with that disreputable bundle of tools, 
by the way), carried out their duties. When one finds 
one's self up at the Front in the position our unit 
achieved one realised how much we were indebted to 
this fine organisation. 

The packing of our equipment by the various firms 
who had supplied it was in nearly every instance well 
done, and we lost scarcely anything by breakage, in spite 
of the vicissitudes which it experienced before finally 
arriving at its destination. 

In fact, owing to the fine checking work of the 
orderlies, we only lost two pieces of tent flooring out of 
the whole outfit. These got smashed on the quay. We 
took up the remains and were glad to have them, wood 
being at a premium. 

We now had our work cut out for us. Instead of a 
base hospital we had become a Casualty Clearing Station ; 
or would be, as soon as we were ready to take in wounded. 
Only the tiny dressing stations lay between us and the 
firing line. 

The ward tents were twenty in number, and passage 
ways connecting the tents had been provided. These 
were novel in one point, for a skeleton wood arrange- 
ment in the form of a pent-house roof had been provided 



PITCHING THE CAMP— FLOKINA 111 



for them, so that when fitted between two tents the 
staff could walk from one to the other without stooping 
as is usually necessary when the connecting way is merely 
roofed with a horizontal strip of canvas. The latter, 
besides being too low, collects water during rain, sags 
and drops some of it down your neck if you incidentally 
bump it with your head. The arrangement of the wards 
decided on by the C.M.O. was as follows : there were 
to be five wards consisting of four tents apiece, each 
pair connected by a passage way. Each half ward 
formed, therefore, a unit under the charge of a sister who 
had two others to help her. The tent flooring, in spite 
of the trouble it had been to get it up country, was an 
inestimable boon, making for cleanliness, dryness and 
warmth, both of high value on our clayey soil. But 
it came near to being scrapped ; for it was the least 
important and valuable part of the equipment, and I 
had determined to scrap it, leave it behind to take its 
chance on the quay, if it appeared the least likely to 
impede getting the rest of the material up to Ostrovo. 
Fifty odd pieces were left behind, but retrieved later. 

Each tent took ten beds. The ward, therefore, 
consisted of forty beds, and the hospital of two hundred. 
But there were other necessities besides the wards, the 
first and most important being the reception tent, in 
which the wounded were taken straight from the ambu- 
lances, their clothes removed, the men washed and clad 
in hospital kit before being transferred to the wards. 
How this tent got its appellation it is difficult to say. 
To the lay mind a reception tent is associated with very 
different and usually festive (or solemn official) functions. 
Then came the operating tent and its companion the 
sterilising tent in importance, and lastly the X-ray tents. 



112 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



And each ward had to have its small companions in which 
to keep the ward utensils and so on. A clothing store 
tent for the kit of the wounded brought in and a mor- 
tuary formed the purely hospital part of the camp. 
But that was not all. A store tent for the hospital 
stores, — this the administrator's department ; a store 
tent for the matron, a dispensary, laboratory, and a mess 
tent also had to go up, and of course each was considered 
the most indispensable and urgent part of the camp by 
its own department. The rest of the camp may be 
omitted as not of the first importance, with the exception 
of the sanitary arrangements, the department of the 
sanitary engineer, and these gave a lot of trouble and 
entailed a lot of very hard work. Had we been an 
R.A.M.C. unit with plenty of orderlies, or even had we 
had a company of Serbs, the job would not have been 
quite so complex. But with our small Serbian force 
(each day a certain proportion were down with fever 
and so of! work, and more could not be spared from the 
fighting line) the question as to which tents should go 
up first was an extremely delicate one, and came up each 
morning (and once or twice during the day !) for fresh 
consideration. There were no two opinions about the 
wards and the reception tent. They were imperative, 
and, with the exception of working parties engaged in 
levelling the various sites determined on for the different 
elements of the camp, the men were concentrated on 
these. 

The days were pretty hard, but extremely interesting. 
Awake at dawn ; breakfast 6.30 ; dinner 12, siesta till 2 
(if possible) ; tea 3.30 ; and supper at 6.30. 

These meals were partaken of in the open for the first 
ten days, as we had no time to give to getting up the 



PITCHING THE CAMP— FLORINA 113 



mess tent. Amongst the minor discomforts of this period 
and for some time after were the wasps. They were in 
myriads ; came from the rocky hill at the back of us and 
turned up regularly at meals in their thousands. We 
also had flies. But the wasps ate the flies and so miti- 
gated that nuisance, a serious one in the big R.A.M.C. 
hospitals in the plains, where flies, sand, and a hot sun 
combined to make life insupportable. We were better 
off than that. But these wasps ! If the unit would 
only have foregone eating jam, as I besought them to do, 
we should not have been in so bad a case ; for the wasps 
were only too ready to lose themselves ecstatically in 
the jam. But the unit would not give up its jam. It 
was almost a tragedy when the quiet Miss Jack, who 
I am sure had never harmed a living thing, uninten- 
tionally ate a wasp — I mean put one inadvertently into 
her mouth with a piece of bread and jam, and it stung her 
on the tongue, a most painful business. Towards the 
end of September the cold killed off the wasps, but the 
Macedonian insect world had another surprise for us. 
Earwigs appeared on the scene in as great numbers as 
the wasps had been. The earwigs were apparently 
seeking winter quarters in which to hibernate. They 
crawled into the seams of our clothes, interstices of our 
caps, occupied every crevice and cranny in the tents, 
stuck their forceps into you if, feeling uncomfortable in 
your kit, you unwarily pressed or pinched them, and 
altogether made themselves as great a nuisance as the 
wasps. 

How these women did work at this period ! We had 
barely got two wards up and one half fitted when Colonel 
Sondermeyer appeared in the camp, accompanied by 
Colonel Milosavlovitch from Ostrovo, and asked Dr. 

i 



114 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



Bennett whether she could take in wounded at once. 
When questioned on the subject I most strongly opposed 
the idea. If wounded came in at this stage the work 
would not only be greatly hampered and delayed, but 
the camp would be badly put up, have a slovenly 
appearance, and really good work would be an impos- 
sibility. The C.M.O. resisted the pressure put on her, 
and we got two days' grace. Those two days are an 
interesting nightmare to look back upon. The first 
wounded commenced to arrive at the end of the period 
of grace. We had then two wards complete and a third 
up, but not fitted. This fitting of the wards was the 
nurses' part of the job. The tents pitched, and floor- 
ing in, we departed elsewhere. The nurses then put 
together the iron bedsteads, every part of which had to 
be scrubbed clean first, arranged them in the tents, 
took over the necessary bedding, etc., etc., from the 
matron, and fitted up the wards. 

The first " wounded " wasn't a wounded after all ! 
And he came in before the period of grace had expired. 
He was a Serb soldier, and they found him lying in the 
road which ran past the south end of the camp, very 
weary, half starved, and in the last stage of exhaustion. 
He was, I believe, on his way to the trenches. Anyhow 
he had got as near as he wanted to go for the moment. 
Some soft-hearted nurse or orderly took pity on him, 
brought him into the camp, took him into No. 1 Ward, 
installed him in No. 1 bed, and they had a patient ! 
And finding himself snug and warm he clung tight to 
that bed for days to come, became a kind of pet and 
institution in the hospital, and is there still for aught 
I know to the contrary. 

The first wounded men were admitted on the 16th 



PITCHING THE CAMP— FLORINA 115 



September (the unloading of those last eight waggons 
had taken place on the 13th), and the ambulances com- 
menced to run up to the dressing stations. We were 
a Casualty Clearing Station in being. 

The time had now come to grapple with the operation 
tent. It was a Sunday. All our big jobs appeared to 
come up on a Sunday ! All day we were at work on it 
and the sterilising tent, the two being linked together 
by a passage-way which had to be fitted where no fit- 
ments existed. This gave a lot of trouble, and the job 
was not finished till after nightfall. 

There had been trouble over the working parties. 
I had forgotten that it was Sunday. One has no neces- 
sity for remembering the days of the week at the Front. 
On Sundays in the Serbian Army the soldiers have a 
half holiday " to wash their shirts," as a Serbian officer 
put it when he first told me of the rule. Apparently 
they wash them or are supposed to wash them once a 
week. But clean shirts or dirty shirts, men had to be 
present to-day and were eventually procurable. But 
the soldier is the same in all armies, a great child, 
and they could not be expected to work with the best 
grace. 

These tents were fitted up the following day, and the 
first operation was performed by Dr. Scott on the 19th. 
Within the next week over thirty operations were carried 
out in this tent. A fine piece of work ! I loathed 
passing the place. I looked in one night and once only. 
Round the operating table stood five people, a nurse 
and four doctors, three of our own and the X-ray 
R.A.M.C. specialist, who had been invited to be present. 
Good God! what an "invitation" to receive! The 
light of a strong enthusiasm shone on the faces of the 



116 



AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



five ; a light born of the knowledge that this was the 
work they had come so far to perform, the work in which 
they had made themselves proficient, and that here was 
a life to be saved by their skill. On the table lay an 
inanimate form. He was to lose a leg. A lump rose 
in my throat as my eyes fell upon him. " Poor devil ! " 
I muttered, and dropped the flap. 

In addition to our own medical staff a Serbian Army 
Medical Officer, a Colonel Djeorgevitch, was attached 
to the hospital for duty. He was an extremely pleasant 
man, an able surgeon, and had his own ward allotted 
to him which he ran in his own way. He had been in 
charge of the military hospital at Belgrade when war 
broke out, and had received his training either in Berlin 
or Vienna. I heard, on occasions, that he entertained 
a certain amount of — well, almost contempt for some of 
our British medical ways, and that it was difficult to 
keep him in bandages. All I knew on the latter head 
was that the numerous large bales of bandages brought 
out with the equipment seemed to melt like snow. But 
then the wounded cases were pretty awful. Personally 
I enjoyed talks with him, and his outlook on general 
affairs very much. Then there was that courtly officer, 
Major Nessitch, who occupied the position of Serbian 
Commissariat Officer to the unit. He was a delightful 
man, walked about with pockets full of bonbons, which 
he at once produced to propitiate any woman member 
of the staff who approached him on some matter of 
materials he had been asked to order, but which, as was 
natural, took a long time to turn up. To Watch Major 
Nessitch appeasing Miss Gordon with propitiatory 
bonbons when the irate sanitary engineer wished to 
express her mind plainly on some long overdue material, 



PITCHING THE CAMP— FLOBINA 117 



was as good as a play ; the more so that the courtly 
manners and ingratiating smile of the dapper major so 
often left the irate Scotswoman speechless ! Major 
Nessitch forms an only too common illustration of what 
the Serbian nation are going through. He has lost ten out 
of eleven members of his family, alive at the beginning 
of the war, and the eleventh, a sister, he has not seen 
for two years, and is uncertain whether she is alive. 
We had many conversations together, and he greatly 
despaired of the future of Serbia. " We have lost two 
million of our small population," he said, " and in the 
fighting now going on we are losing some of the flower 
of our remaining men. And we can't afford to lose a 
man." I used to endeavour to console him by saying 
that the Allies would doubtless create a larger Serbia, 
bringing in all the Serbs who at the beginning of the war 
were included either in the Austrian Empire or Bulgaria. 

In this connection I was astonished one day to see a 
Bulgarian wounded brought into hospital. I asked 
Nessitch about it. "I thought no quarter was being 
given by either Serb or Bulgar." " Oh, that man is 
not a true Bulgar. He comes from the strip of country 
running down to Sofia which formed part of old Serbia. 
The people there speak Serbian as well as Bulgarian, 
and are really Serbs." True enough some days after 
I saw this man, and others subsequently, fraternising 
with the Serbs in the camp. Special orders had been 
given apparently to the Serbian soldiers that quarter 
was always to be given to these men, i.e. they were to be 
taken prisoners — not killed on sight when chance offered. 
But we had a true Bulgarian, an officer, brought in 
wounded one day. They first took him into the officers' 
ward. But every Serbian officer who could started 



118 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



getting out of bed. They refused to remain in the same 
tent with a Bulgarian. And it was not the Serbian 
officers only. A severely wounded French colonel who 
was in one of the beds, on learning that a Bulgarian was 
being brought into the ward, faint and weak as he was, 
got frightfully excited and tried to raise himself to get 
out of his bed ; said he would die rather than remain 
for an instant in the same tent as a Bulgarian. He was 
very bitter this French colonel, and he had an excuse. 
His fine regiment had been almost cut to pieces, losing 
over a score of officers and the remainder nearly all 
wounded. As he expressed it to me, they had had a 
hell of a time, and he had never expected to get out 
alive. The French had had a bit of a check fighting up 
to Fiorina, and his regiment had borne the brunt of it. 
The Bulgarians by all accounts had butchered all the 
wounded, so there was something to be said for the 
French colonel. 

The Bulgarian officer gave a lot of trouble. He 
absolutely refused to take any food or drink from the 
Serbian ward orderlies, and even from the hands of the 
sisters and women orderlies ! He would only eat eggs, 
boiled in their shells, which he took off himself. He 
apparently thought the Serbians would poison him, 
though they were much more likely to have knifed him. 
And he extended his suspicions to the women of the 
unit ! The Serbians quite failed to see why he should 
be treated in the hospital at all. The Serbian soldiers 
openly spat when they first caught sight of the Bulgarian 
uniform as he was taken out of the ambulance, and some 
gravely suggested that he should be killed out of hand. 
They did not understand, or would not, that there were 
no enemies in a hospital — that enmity ceased on crossing 



PITCHING THE CAMP— FLORINA 119 



its portals. It is impossible not to sympathise with 
their point of view when one remembers all that Serbia 
is suffering at the hands of Bulgaria. 

The two other officers attached for duty to the camp 
were both from the Corps of Engineers to assist in getting 
up the camp — a Captain, byname Radoyevitch and a sub- 
altern, who was always called the Blue Lieutenant, from 
the colour of his uniform. They were very nice, and at 
times amusing, even if they did not always quite appre- 
ciate my views on tent-pitching or on long working hours. 

We had no daily newspapers in camp, nor such luxury 
as wires telling us about the outside world, but the 
rumours kept us going all right. These were of the 
wildest. Fiorina, not a score of miles away, had fallen 
a week before the actual event. We should all be in 
Monastir within a fortnight, so why worry about putting 
up the camp properly ? and so on. These rumours, in 
so far as they affected the work, were most annoying. 
Having acquired some knowledge about the transport 
part of the business, even when Monastir did fall I did 
not see where we were going to get transport from to 
move us, considering the French were hard put to it 
to get up supplies and ammunition as it was. The news 
that the big Ekshisu viaduct had been blown up by the 
Bulgarians, thus putting the railway hors de combat 
beyond Ekshisu station, did not help matters. These 
rumours were exasperating, and the sanguine credence 
which the Serbian officers and men attached to us gave 
to them even more so. And as the hospital is still on 
the same site as I pen these lines in February,* I had at 
least some justification for the position I took up, which 

* It was still there in May, save for a small advanced party sent 
up to the Monastir Plain under Dr. Muncaster. 



120 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



was to listen to them, since one could do naught else, 
but believe none and make the best job we could of the 
work in hand. The attitude of the Serbians was quite 
natural. Their whole aspirations were centred on the 
recapture of Monastir and setting foot once more in 
their country and that important town of it. But we 
had no such reason for believing wild rumour ; and 
nowhere is it wilder than up at the Front. 

The M. T. had arrived up here now and formed their 
base camp about a mile away, with an advance post the 
other side of Ostrovo. This is the lot who were next us at 
Mikra, and who have helped the unit so greatly. Discus- 
sing the position with the Colonel in Command, Colonel 
Bearne, he said that the advance by the Serbians was being 
made more rapidly than had been anticipated, and that 
the problem of getting up ammunition and supplies was 
becoming very difficult and going to be far harder. The 
absence of roads and the awful bridle-paths in the hills 
meant that even the Ford cars, which formed the carry- 
ing vehicle of the M. T. companies up here, had all they 
could do to negotiate them, even with a load only two- 
thirds of their carrying capacity. I was asked a question 
on this subject some months later by the Director-General 
of Transport and Supplies at the War Office, and was 
able to fully satisfy him, I think, by a description of 
the country, that the Ford van, even carrying only a 
two-thirds load, was doing all that could be expected 
of it and doing it cheaply. After the fall of Fiorina, 
Colonel Bearne told me that the general impression was 
that the French would be in Monastir in two days, and 
if the Serbs advanced a similar distance in the mountains, 
the transport difficulties would be immense. I will give 
some idea of these roads later. 



PITCHING THE CAMP— FLORINA 121 



I saw the distant Fiorina struggle from our rocky 
hill on the night of its fall. A heavy cannonade had 
been going on all day to the north out Kajmaktcalan 
way and to the west. We had received warning to show 
no lights after nightfall, a practical impossibility for us 
with work to do, as we might expect enemy aeroplanes 
and bombing, and perhaps some shelling by big guns. 
We had got beyond bothering about that kind of thing 
by then. You can't live within sound of the guns by 
day and night for long, even if you are not actually 
receiving their messages, without soon getting either 
blase or fatalistic. We knew very well we might be 
bombed at any moment, as the Bulgars are no respecters 
of the Red Cross, and had become accustomed to the 
idea. Outwardly at least the news to-day made very 
little impression. 

It was somewhere about midnight, perhaps earlier — 
my watch had stopped — when I went up the hill to see 
as much as possible of the big thrust for Fiorina which 
I had been told by a friend was on for to-night. 

The camp was sunk in slumber. Not a man moved 
in the Serb lines. It was a very dark night with no 
moon as yet, and climbing up the rocky hill without a 
light was a bit arduous. To west and north-west the 
horizon was flickering with light, and the thunder of the 
guns became louder as one neared the summit of the 
slope. Of course this fight was taking place at a greater 
distance (four to five miles further on as the crow flies) 
west and north-west than the Gornicevo one, but from 
my position there was plenty to hear and see. There 
was more fighting to the north, where an attack or 
diversion was apparently being made by the Serbians ; 
also away to north-east. In fact, the whole left and 



122 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



centre of the front appeared to be in activity, with the 
object, no doubt, of making a certainty of Fiorina, the 
recapture of which was of course important. But to 
north and north-east it was chiefly artillery at work. 
The firework display was in the north-west and west, 
where star shells and flares were lighting up the sky, 
and the incessant flickering of the guns showed up against 
the dark background. On their lower flanks the great 
mountains lay dark and mysterious, save for the twinkle 
of camp fires showing up in spots where assuredly men 
had never bivouacked before in such numbers. Never 
before can these mountains have looked down on such 
a scene as they now presented. Every rocky track and 
steep rocky bridle-path, every little mountain upland 
valley and glen is now packed day and night with an 
ever moving and struggling mass of troops and transport, 
now wearily halting for a brief rest in which to cook 
their food, now snatching a few brief hours for slumber, 
then toiling onward again over the vile tracks, beneath 
a sun which is of almost tropical heat in the daytime, 
whereas the nights are bitterly cold. Up and down 
struggle this mass of men and animals, and seeing it 
one wonders once again at modern warfare, which takes 
no account of topographical features, but turns out 
whole nations to hold a line stretching from one frontier 
to another, paying no heed to the nature of the surface 
lying between the two flanks of the line. Nowhere 
could a better illustration be found than is to be seen in 
the chaotic mass of hills on the frontiers of Macedonia 
and Serbia. 

I suppose I had been up on the hill some twenty 
minutes or so when the guns suddenly ceased, and the 
rat-tat-tat of machine-guns opened out, accompanied 



PITCHING THE CAMP— FLORINA 123 



by bursts of rifle fire and bombing. Occasionally the 
sound came quite loud and distinct, then it almost died 
away as the wind, blowing from east-south-east, dropped 
or came stronger. This attack continued for some time 
to be suddenly replaced (or drowned) as the artillery 
opened and poured in a continuous fire. It is the machine- 
gun, bombing, and rifle fire that sends the thrills through 
one, and sets the nerves a-tingling. We had all got used 
to the big guns, either firing intermittently for hours 
together or suddenly breaking out in fitful outbursts like 
a fretful child. It was different with the machine-guns 
and rifles. We only heard them on the grand attacks, of 
which Gornicevo was the first, this the second, and the 
series of attacks on Kajmaktcalan and Starkov Grob the 
finale, so far as the camp was concerned — and these all 
took place in September. 

It is so easy to picture the deadly work that is taking 
place when that rat-tat-tat starts in these fights in a 
bare open country devoid of any real trenches. Now 
the firing dies away, a silence ensues, a silence that can 
almost be felt, so heavy is it with the presage of death. 
The horizon is lit up with flares and star shells. Suddenly 
with a crash the guns break out, the sound rumbling 
round and round the mountain tops. The small arms 
and bombs take up the tune again and the horizon and 
distant mountain crest are now a continuous flicker of 
light. In vain one strains one's eyes through the glasses 
in the effort to make out what is taking place over yonder. 
That the fighting is fierce there can be little doubt. Are 
they going clean through this time, as the Serbians 
confidently predict ? They think, talk and dream of 
little else but getting back into Monastir again. 

I stood musing in this fashion on that dark hillside as 



124 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 

the attack waxed and waned out Fiorina way. Again 
it suddenly ceased, the flickering went out, the guns 
continued to speak intermittently for a time, and then 
a great silence supervened. I waited, but the silence was 
scarcely broken in the west, but from the north-east, 
faint and far off, came unmistakably the sound of guns, 
and a feeble flickering about the mountain crests in that 
direction could be just descried. This would be the 
French and Italians, or were the British attacking ? It 
would be long ere I knew what was taking place out 
there. I faced the west again. How was it over there ? 
Had Fiorina fallen ? 



CHAPTER XI 



THE CAMP SETTLING IN. STORMING OF KAJMAKTCALAN 
BY THE SERBIANS 

We heard the next afternoon that Fiorina had fallen last 
night after a fine assault by the French and Russians, and 
that the French expected to be in Monastir in a couple 
of days. The camp, including the Serbian part of it, 
was positive this time. The hospital would move to 
Monastir within a week — or two. And most of us really 
believed that this would happen. It seemed reasonable 
enough, I must allow. Only my job was transport. And 
where was that to come from ? I could not see my way 
and was voted a croaker and pessimist. I also wanted 
to see Monastir though — very badly. 

Meanwhile we went on with the tent-pitching. The 
X-ray tents had to be got up and fitted for that important 
part of the hospital work. This involved putting 
together an engine and various other complicated details. 
Owing to unforeseen accidents our X-ray personnel had 
fallen through. One good turn deserves another, how- 
ever, and the Colonel of the R.A.M.C. hospital, to whom 
Dr. Bennett had lent some nurses in Mikra Bay days, 
at her solicitation, sent up his X-ray specialist officer, 
Captain Riddell, with an assistant R.A.M.C. private. 
They started work on a Sunday. We had pitched the 



126 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



two tents of brown canvas, each having an inside black 
lining ; one for the X-ray apparatus and stretcher for the 
wounded man, the other in which to develop the photo- 
graphs. Their job was to set up the engine and the 
apparatus, and this work was completed and the first 
plate taken within three days. By the following Sunday 
eighty X-ray photographs, all of bad wounds, had been 
taken and developed — a magnificent piece of work. 
The photographs were beautiful examples of the work, 
and too high praise cannot be accorded to the men who 
produced them. For it must be remembered that the 
engine had to be placed on roughly levelled earth, as also 
the X-ray tent itself. 

It was whilst engaged on this work that the Bosches 
gave us a fine aeroplane exhibition. We suddenly heard 
the sharp reports of guns to the north of us. It was 
Archibald. Looking up overhead we saw an aeroplane 
high up, flying very fast and shrapnel bursting below it. 
The sky was cloudless, but there was a breeze blowing, 
and the white cotton-wool-like balls of smoke were soon 
blown out into long tails and wisps. The plane was too 
high to be reached this time, though, and soon disappeared. 

We saw a lot of this practice from the camp and they 
bagged one once, though luckily for us it did not fall 
within the camp. It would have made a nice mess of 
us if it had. The Scottish Women became so accustomed 
to these visits that after a time no one would bother to 
turn out to watch the firing. The prettiest exhibition 
was on an absolutely still evening just before sunset. 
We heard the guns to the south of us above the French 
aviation camp. In the sky we saw some roundish 
objects like balls of cotton wool, one or two with tails 
looking like descending parachutes. Suddenly we saw 



FKENCH TRANSPORT GOING U 1' KAJMAKTCALAN '. LAKE OSTROVO IS SEH 
THE HACK ENCIRCLED BY MOUNTAINS 




SERBIANS STORM KAJMAKTCALAN 127 



two blackish specks now and then gleaming red under 
the rays of the westering sun. One was higher than the 
other — an enemy aeroplane pursued by a French one. 
The higher and faster one, turning west, flew into a black 
cloud after a time and disappeared, and the French one 
then returned. The Archibalds fired shot after shot at 
the enemy aeroplane, and it was a curious sight to see the 
round balls of shrapnel smoke hanging suspended in the 
air absolutely motionless for quite a long time before 
gradually opening out and dispersing. We counted 
some thirty of them in the air together, marking the course 
of the plane, and only very gradually they opened out, 
assuming the form of trees, oaks and elms, before finally 
dissolving. 

Captain Rid dell also had the electric light fitted up 
in the operating theatre, an inestimable boon to the 
surgeons. In those first few weeks work proceeded in 
that tent from 9 a.m. in the morning till 11 p.m. at night, 
and the rest of the hours till next morning were given 
to sterilising work. When the nurses and orderlies of 
that theatre slept during these heavy days of stress was 
an enigma to me. But there were scant hours of leisure 
— none, in fact — for any of the Scottish Women. The 
doctors, Drs. Bennett (the C.M.O.), Cooper (who had 
joined the unit recently from Australia), Lewis, Scott and 
Muncaster, spent hours in the operating theatre and the 
rest of the time in their wards. The C.M.O. had also 
the whole of the administrative work of the hospital 
to attend to in addition to receiving visitors, but of the 
latter more anon. 

It may be mentioned here, however, that General 
Wassitch was one of our earliest, constant and most 
welcome visitors. He commanded the 3rd Serbian 



128 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



Army, to which we were attached, and was most popular 
with all. 

The matron and the nurses on night and day shifts, 
from the day they started the work of fitting up their 
Department, had no time free from the wards. Ten days 
after the arrival of those last eight waggons at the camp, 
one hundred and sixty beds were occupied, and a day or 
two later the hospital was full — nearly all wounded cases. 
Had we had five hundred beds they could have been 
filled with equal ease. They were badly needed at that 
time. If a quarter only of one of the big R.A.M.C. 
hospitals had come up from below and lain alongside us 
we shouldnothave complained — not, that is, oncewewere 
installed ourselves, with no chance of being sent back. 

The reception tent was under the charge of Sister 
Harvey, who had been a matron for a number of years, 
and yet had cheerfully come out with the unit in a sub- 
ordinate capacity (that is the spirit we all love) ; she had 
an orderly assistant, Miss Reid, one of the most indefati- 
gable people I have met, who had learnt Serbian, and was 
in danger of thinking the Serbians, who all loved her, 
the finest people on God's earth — and I do not blame her. 
Miss Reid had been one of the checking party and her 
work was above praise — my praise anyway. The hours 
of the reception tent were unlimited : wounded arrived 
at any hour, and the staff of that tent had to be ready to 
deal with them. That speaks for itself. And the rest 
of the orderlies, those in the wards, in the mess tents, in 
the kitchens and elsewhere — long hours of hard work 
and no distraction spelt their life. 

Can you picture the life these women were leading 
at this juncture? I freely admit I could not have myself 
had I not seen it. Then there were the other departments. 



SERBIANS STORM KAJMAKTCALAN 129 



That of the administrator, Miss Jack, who was responsible 
for the stores and the feeding of the unit, a not unim- 
portant part of the business, let me tell you ; ask any 
fighting man, if you want corroboration, French, Russian, 
Italian, British or Heathen Chinese ; they'll all give 
you the same answer — food is the chief subject of their 
thoughts on active service. Miss Jack had the whole 
of the stores under her command, and held secret inter- 
views with her colleague in this department, the Serbian 
officer, Major Nessitch, whom I have already mentioned 
as attached to us — a most courteous gentleman. Her 
orderly assistant, Miss Fowler, hailed from Aberdeen. 
A delightful person, who acted as bugler to the unit. It 
would be base flattery to say that her proficiency with 
this difficult instrument of music would have passed the 
Band Sergeant-Ma j or ; but it was music, since the 
at times extraordinary, notes emitted meant the feed- 
ing hour, and the unit was always ready for its meals. 
That mountain air, you know ! 

Then there was the department of the sanitary 
engineer, Miss Gordon. That appalling machine the 
disinfector, whose peregrinations on the railway at home 
had entailed such a lot of worry, was part, one of the 
numerous parts, of her show. Yes, it fetched up all 
right — a monster of ugliness, a cross between a railway 
engine and a road tractor, with none of the beauties of 
either. The trouble that thing had cost ! It had been 
heartily cursed scores of times in at least five languages, 
as individuals of these five nations had in turn to deal 
with its cumbersome bulk. And I found out what it 
was intended for — to disinfect the wounded men's kit. 
I had had vague ideas that it was for disinfecting the 
hospital or the staff — didn't quite know which. However, 

E 



130 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



at length its owner's turn came to tackle it. And she 
had a lively time of it. She rescued it daily, almost 
hourly at first, from the Serbs' (who were training on as 
engineer assistants) unintentional but unremitting efforts 
to blow it up. Their idea was to pack it as tight as it 
would hold with the bundles of clothes, clamp-to the 
door, turn on full steam ahead, close all stop-cocks, 
valves, and so on, and then stand ecstatically watching 
the hissing monster. It was the show of the camp — 
invariably had a rapturous crowd round it ; recovering 
wounded, when they could escape the vigilant eyes of 
the orderly, crawled to it : and why the lot were not 
blown to kingdom come no one seemed to know, not 
even their daily rescuer, the sanitary engineer. Miss 
Gordon had, however, as can well be imagined, a good 
deal of work to do besides admiring that hideous machine 
(it quite spoilt the appearance of that corner of the camp) 
or rescuing its devotees from sudden death. We may 
have been said to have divided the carpenter's shop, 
or the work in it, between us. Wood was at a premium 
with us, just as it is in this country at the present moment. 
The difference out there was that we openly begged or 
borrowed (both difficult) or surreptitiously stole it (easier 
when you know how) when possible. With the arrival of 
the first wounded, splints were required of all sizes and 
shapes. Each doctor wanted them. Nurses came from 
the wards to beg for them. They also wanted trays for 
the wards, tables, shelves, dustpans, foot-scrapers, sign- 
boards, name-boards, el hoc genus omne. 

We had three Serb carpenters, two really good men. 
But each morning one would find them at the piece of 
work which took precedence of all others — making crosses 
to place on the graves of those who had died either on 




CEMETERY— A DAILY SIGHT IN THE CAMP AT FEIST 




THE CARPENTER'S SHOP 



/ 



SERBIANS STORM KAJMAKTCALAN 131 



their way down to the hospital or in the wards. At first 
these cases were three or four and even more a day. 
For instance, on the day on which wounded were admitted 
the first two of our ambulances brought in the one two 
dead men and the other one dead (all died on the road 
down) ; the fourth was alive, but he died a few hours 
after. This luckily was exceptional. But it must be 
remembered, as I have already said, that the fighting be- 
tween Serb and Bulgar was no child's play. It was a sad 
sight to see these dead being carried away to the little 
cemetery specially prepared in the vicinity of the camp. 

The only time I came near to having a serious 
difference with a member of the unit was over this 
matter of wood, and that member was the sanitary engi- 
neer ; and what do you think it was over ? The wretched 
remains of an open wooden crate from which the motor 
bicycle had that morning been unpacked. I had noted 
it at the time ; the narrow wood lengths would do 
beautifully for splints and tables and trays, I had thought 
— numbers were required and our wood resources had 
run dry. It was a sweltering afternoon when I proceeded 
to carry out my intention of making use of that crate. 
Arriving at the scene of operations I found a Serb busily 
breaking up my crate under the direction of Miss Gordon. 
She also apparently had marked down the remains. I 
was soon reduced to silence by the S.E.'s rapid flow of 
eloquence, and in the end was only too willing to divide 
the remains, each piece being measured with the greatest 
care. I assure you it did not appear a small affair in 
our eyes, driven to the verge of desperation by the 
obvious wants of the wards and our inability to supply 
them. We remained, I am happy to say, good friends 
after the incident. 



132 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



Another department, not the least important if 
mentioned last, was the washing department. I mean 
the laundry, under Mrs. Bishop, for which that blessed 
washing machine or mangle was required. This depart- 
ment commenced its career near the spring, one 
gnarled tree giving them all the shade and shelter 
they got for a week or two. Into that depart- 
ment's mysterious operations during that period I did 
not intrude. Then by good fortune a small house, 
about half a mile from the camp (the only house nearer 
than Ostrovo) was secured on the edge of the lake. 
Here after various vicissitudes the laundry got rigged 
up in full working order, but the task was one for Hercules 
— for the whole of the washing for the wards had to 
be undertaken there, in addition to that of the unit. 
Too high praise cannot be given to the organizing power 
displayed and the fine work done by Mrs. Bishop. I 
remain in a fog as to the meaning of the laundry notice 
put up on the order board — " Members of unit allowed 
three pieces of washing a week." This beat me ! Was a 
pair of socks or pyjamas one or two ? Was a collar 
or a handkerchief one ? I couldn't solve these conun- 
drums and never did, as the chief of that department 
came to my help, but without solving the mystery for 
me. What a lot of things men are hopelessly ignorant 
about ! I'm willing to bet even money (or give a shade 
of odds) that few men, if any, can tell me how many 
pieces of washing make three ; or put conversely, what 
three pieces of washing mean — in number of articles ! 

Riddell told an amusing yarn one night at mess. 
After passing his medical exams, he went as assistant to 
a doctor in a mining district. The latter had grown up 
in the district and was known to all by his Christian name 



SERBIANS STORM KAJMAKTCALAN 133 



of Dan, Riddell being always styled the " helper." One 
day visiting a cottage he heard a youngster coughing and 
said to the mother, " That sounds like whooping cough. 
She will have it three weeks." One Saturday afternoon 
some time later he was in the inner room of the dispensary, 
working hours being over. He heard a man enter the 
dispensary and growl out, "Where's the helper ? " The 
dispenser replied, " He's out." Riddell was just going 
to shout out, " No, I'm not," but knowing that the dis- 
penser was to be trusted held his tongue. " When'll 
he be back ? " "I don't know." " Well, I'll wait." 
" But I don't think he'll be in till late to-night, as he has 
a long round to do," said the dispenser, who, as he 
explained subsequently, did not like the truculent look 
of the visitor. " Won't Dan do ? He'll be in soon." 
" No. Dan won't do. I want the helper. Look 'ere, 
see the wain 'ere." " Yes." " Well, the helper said 
she'd get quit of this cough in three weeks. It's three 
weeks to-day and she's still got it, and I wants to see 'im 
about it ! " 

We saw a great number of the troops going up to 
reinforce the French at this period. Russians, French 
cavalry, infantry and French colonial regiments, their 
transport and heavy guns. They passed day and night 
along the apology of a road which ran at the southern 
edge of our camp. They all halted for a ten minutes' 
rest here before completing the day or night's march 
to Ostrovo, and all evinced the liveliest curiosity in the 
camp. The officers would ride up and ask questions 
and inspect, exhibiting the greatest interest in the 
arrangements, whilst the men, as many as could get 
near, showed a preference for the neighbourhood of our 
cooking quarters. 



134 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



A magnificent Russian infantry regiment appeared 
one morning and made the usual halt. They were a 
fine body of men of unusual physique, many with long 
fair beards cut square and blue eyes, others smooth round- 
faced youngsters . Some of the younger officers laughingly 
hoped that they would " get a bullet," and be sent down 
here. I think this was one of the finest regiments I 
saw in Macedonia. Their regimental transport which 
passed later was also very good. Another day we had 
a French cavalry regiment along. We were at dinner 
when suddenly the beautiful cavalry trumpets burst 
on our ears ; and the Frenchmen, to a large and delighted 
audience, played the regiment past the camp, continuing 
the music until it faded in the distance. This regiment 
was a very serviceable one, the horses somewhat small 
but hard and fit. It did not quite come up to the one 
I had seen cross the Vardar bridge on my way back to 
Salonika. Artillery of all calibre was a never-failing 
source of interest to some, and the batteries of 115-cm. 
shown in the photograph were a fine sight. I sub- 
sequently saw them in action in front of Kenali. Regi- 
ments of curious interest to one acquainted with our 
native army in India and its composition, were the French 
colonial regiments, consisting of Frenchmen mixed with 
Senegalese, men from Madagascar, and so on. 

They are fine fighting regiments these French 
colonials, and the two we saw pass us were destined to 
sustain very heavy casualties in the assaults of the strong 
Kenali line in the Monastir plain. The Senegalese pre- 
ferred carrying the whole of their kit, a pack of large 
dimensions, crowned with their trench helmet, on their 
heads — a remarkable sight to see men marching in the 
ranks in this fashion. Many were enormously muscular 




A RUSSIAN INFANTRY REGIMENT EN ROUTE TO THE MONASTIR l'LAIN. 
A TEN MINUTES HALT, SEP. 1916 



SERBIANS STORM KAJMAKTCALAN 135 



men. I talked with one French poilu who had fallen out, 
dead beat. He was war weary and very pessimistic on 
the subject of the war here. Said they had come straight 
from the trenches in France ; had reached Salonika 
three weeks ago, rested for a fortnight, and then marched 
up here. Poor devil ! he was done up. 

Convoys of all kinds passed eternally throughout 
night and day, horse, lorry, pack pony, mule and donkey. 
We saw them all and heard them all, as also everlasting 
convoys of Ford cars going up and down on their 
business of supplying the French and Serbian armies 
with ammunition and food. At night to see a long line 
of these Ford cars appearing out of the barren stony 
hills to the east, their twin lamps brightening and 
dimming at intervals, was an eerie sight ; and the jarring 
noise of their engines as brakes were put on and off, 
after one had listened to it half the night, became not 
a little annoying. We had a mud hole, a bad one, on 
this road quite close to the kitchen. It was none of 
our doing. It was not there when we arrived. The 
heavy French lorries and transport carts, plus guns 
and ammunition caissons, all had had a hand in making 
it, and it very soon earned a reputation for itself far up 
and down the road. Men began to look out for it miles 
before they were near it. And then when they arrived 
and inspected it (for the first time) they scoffed. French, 
Russian, Serb and British, I have seen them all do it — 
and one after the other they all paid the penalty. I 
admit it did not look much. Two revolutions of the 
wheels would do it. The one revolution was made 
all right, but the second might take hours or a day. 
In two cases French lorries spent two days apiece in 
that slough of despond. And the conversation that 



136 AT THE SEKBIAN FRONT 



went on round the place during the twenty-four hours ! 
Of course most of it is unprintable. But for any one keen 
on languages, for instance an etymologist or dictionary- 
compiler, well, a first-class fare to this spot and a fort- 
night's bivouacking there would have given him sufficient 
work for the rest of a good long life, and he could have 
read papers at scientific literary gatherings for the rest 
of his days. I learnt quite a lot at the hole. They were 
rushing up a French infantry regiment in lorries to the 
Front one day, owing to some small check experienced 
by the French. The railway was blocked owing to a 
bad accident to a hospital train at Vertekop. Lorry 
after lorry went into the hole. Some got out fairly 
easily. Others took most of the regiment to drag them 
out. I brushed up a lot of my French — I mean French 
of a certain kind — at the mud hole that afternoon. 

About the middle of September the real attack on 
the Kajmaktcalan and Starkov Grob positions began. 
The fortified crest of the former mountain, with the 
equally strong Starkov Grob one to the west, formed 
the key to the whole position. Once taken it meant that 
the Serbs could descend on the other side in the direction 
of the Monastir plain, though there would be plenty 
of hard fighting to undertake on the Cherna before they 
reached that point. It was on September 18th that I saw 
the real commencement of the attack on Kajmaktcalan. 
Something took me into Ostrovo on a brilliant morning. 
We had beautiful autumn weather for the most part 
during the next month. The slopes of the great mountain 
lay bathed in sunlight with fleecy cloud masses here and 
there, in part composed of smoke from the batteries. 
These were hard at work. The bursting shrapnel from 
the Bulgarian guns could be distinctly seen, as also our 



SERBIANS STORM KAJMAKTCALAN 137 



batteries firing up over the ridge searching for the Bulgar 
batteries on the far side, hidden in almost impenetrable 
ravines ; their guns hauled up to this great height at 
the expense of almost superhuman labour. To get our 
own batteries into their present position, as I subse- 
quently saw for myself, was a task which no one would 
have dreamt of attempting before this war. The 
bombardment on this morning was very severe, much 
more so than it had been for many a week past, on and 
off. Away to the west the cannonade was also very 
heavy. This was to culminate in the assault on Fiorina 
which fell on this night. The Kajmaktcalan mountain 
mass rises sheer up due north of Ostrovo at a distance 
of about a couple of miles. It looks an impossible 
place to get troops and guns up into. 

The battle of Kajmaktcalan is usually given as having 
been fought and won on September 18th. But this 
is not the date upon which the final summit was won. 
I describe this battlefield in a later chapter from notes 
made at the time of visiting it. The taking of the three 
successive lines of trenches on the slopes and crest of 
Kajmaktcalan and the Starkov Grob position to the 
south-west took the best part of ten days or more. Being 
encamped so close and within sound and view of the 
mountain, I daily recorded the various phases of the 
battle as the news came in to us by telephone. Also 
many of the seriously wounded from the battlefield 
came direct to us, brought down from the field dressing 
station on the Drina immediately below the fighting 
line. I had the good fortune to become great friends 
with a colonel of one of the infantry regiments, Colonel 
Stojchitch, who was badly wounded in the arm in one of 
the fierce fights up on the great mountain side. The 



138 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



actual crest was taken on September 30th. Truly was it a 
fight fit for gods up there, far above tree level on the 
stony and rocky slopes in the bitter cold of late autumn, 
and all honour to the men who fought it. It was the 
Army to which we belonged that was fighting up there, 
and we followed the fortunes of the great contest, 
as they waxed and waned, with close attention and 
anxiety ; for until the Bulgarians were turned out of 
there, the fortunes of our hospital were still in the 
balance. Retreat would be impossible for us and none 
were keen on becoming prisoners to the Bulgars. 

The following daily record as jotted down in my diary 
is of interest : — 

September 19th. — Artillery fire broke out heavily 
during the night. 

September 20th. — A severe action was fought to- 
night up on Kajmaktcalan, preceded by heavy gun 
fire, with the first machine-gun, bombing, and rifle fire 
heard up there. 

I was told that the Serbians were attacking the 
first of the three lines of trenches protected by wire 
entanglements. For three hours the turmoil continued. 
The Serbians were enfiladed by machine-gun fire and lost 
heavily. My little bell tent faces north over Kajmakt- 
calan, and I lay on my cot looking across to where 
the great mountain mass cut the dark vault of the 
heavens, studded with brilliant stars. The slopes were 
flickering with the flashes of the guns and the star 
shells, whilst the crest gleamed dull red. One hoped 
to see it all a bit nearer one day. Some progress was 
made, we heard. 

September 21st. — A stormy wet thundery day. 
Kajmaktcalan is hidden in dense cloud masses. It must 



SAKULEVO VILLAGE UNDER SHELL FIRE. THE COUNTRY AND MOUNTAINS BEYOND 
ARE BLOTTED OUT BV THE SMOKE OF THE VIOLENT BOMBARDMENT OF THE 
KENAI.I LINE BY THE FRENCH 




H.R.H. THE CROWN PRINCE OF SERBIA ON KAJMAKTC ALAN, END OF SEP. I916 



SERBIANS STORM KAJMAKTCALAN 139 



be bitter cold work for both sides carrying out modern 
war at that elevation under such conditions. A lull 
in the firing. It is quite strange to be without the 
sound of guns in our ears. 

September 22nd. — The guns commenced firing again 
this afternoon, the visibility having improved. The 
check, owing to the mist, has been rough on the Serbians, 
as it has enabled the Bulgarians to strengthen their 
positions. 

September 23rd. — Guns have been at work all to-day, 
and to-night a fierce engagement, the hottest we have had 
for several nights, is taking place up on Kajmaktcalan. 

Sunday, September 24th. — Heavy fighting took place 
on the mountain this afternoon. The progress is slower 
than was anticipated. 

September 25th. — The day was quiet with inter- 
mittent artillery fire. The attack opened fiercely to- 
night to N.E., N., and N.W., with the usual accompani- 
ment of star shells, flares and machine-gun, bombs, 
and rifle fire. It lasted for several hours and a fiercely 
contested battle was evidently taking place. 

September 26th. — The attack of last night continued 
into the early hours of this morning and was especially 
fierce in the direction of Starkov Grob. Throughout 
the day there were occasional outbursts of artillery 
fire which increased after nightfall with fierce bursts 
of small arms fire. 

September 27th. — The heavy firing on night of 25th- 
26th September was the fiercest engagement which has 
yet taken place. It was hand-to-hand, the Bulgarians 
counter-attacking the Serbians to recover lost trenches 
on the heights. The enemy came on four times and got 
into the Serbian trenches, only to be thrown out. It is 



140 AT THE SEEBIAN FRONT 



rumoured, however, that the Serbians lost portions of 
trenches they had previously taken. The latter had 
500 killed and 1000 wounded, and they say that the 
Bulgarian losses were far heavier, which is probable, as 
they were the attackers, and the ground up there is 
almost devoid of cover. Wounded from this fight were 
brought down to the hospital to-day, amongst these the 
Serbian colonel, Colonel Stojchitch, previously alluded 
to. He told me that the fighting had been of the fiercest 
with the bayonet and no quarter given. To make 
matters worse, the ammunition ran short, probably 
owing to the block on the railway. 

I rode out to a hill a couple of miles away in the late 
afternoon, from which a fine view of the whole upper part 
of Kajmaktcalan is obtained. The Serbian batteries 
were firing salvoes on to the crest, whilst the bursting 
shells of the Bulgarian batteries dotted the slopes below, 
searching the Serbian lines. The night was compara- 
tively quiet, but star shells and flares were constantly 
sent up, each side doubtless expecting an attack. 

Heard this evening that orders had been issued to 
give the Serbs a couple of days' rest before the final 
assault is made. The Serbian colonel told me that they 
are now up to the upper line of trenches very near the 
crest. He said that the fighting was of the deadliest. 
His regiment, 2500 strong, had suffered severely in these 
advances, numbering now only 950 ; that he had had 30 
officers killed and as many wounded, including himself, 
he being in a forward trench at the time. I saw the 
place later. 

September 28th. — Practically no firing to-day. The 
Serbs are resting and their batteries waiting for more 
ammunition. Heard to-day that General Wassitch 



SERBIANS STORM KAJMAKTCALAN 141 



has determined on a big push in two days' time to clear 
the Bulgars ofi the crest of Kajmaktcalan, and finally 
pierce this stronghold. 

September 29th. — I went up to the Drina dressing 
station some five miles or so below the firing line. The 
guns were quiet up here, and the mountains, putting on 
their autumn tints, were glorious. The road up the 
Drina is described later. 

I had heard from Captain Gooden, liaison officer, that 
the grand attack was to commence to-night and remained 
in Ostrovo to watch it. Already the shades of night 
had fallen on the lower parts of the mountain, but the 
summit was bathed in soft yellow light from the rapidly 
setting sun. Soon this turned to blood red, a fitting 
pall for the night of carnage which was so soon to take 
place up there on the heights. The night bid fair to 
remain clear and starlight. As often as not during 
the past fortnight the upper part of the great mountain 
has been enshrouded in mist. From our position we 
could only see the flashes of the guns and the reflected 
light of the star shells, flares, bombs, etc., for a swelling 
in the upper part of a spur below the crest hid the actual 
scene of the fight and deadened to some extent the noise 
of the rifle and machine-gun fire. The bursting of the 
Bulgar shells was distinctly visible, ceaselessly searching 
for our batteries. We sat and watched the great fight 
for some hours. Now and then the telephone spoke, but 
there was nothing definite yet. The fight continued 
throughout the night, but the sound decreased in the 
morning, possibly due, we thought, to the fact that the 
wind was blowing from the south up on to the crest. 
No news had come in to say that definite success had been 
attained, no news that was given out at any rate. 



142 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



Through the day the guns waxed and waned, and in the 
camp, to which I had to return, as one went about the 
work one feverishly wondered how things were going 
up there. In the evening just before supper anxiety 
was set at rest. A telephone message came through, 
saying that the Serbs had captured the crest and that 
the Bulgarians were in full retreat down the steep 
northern slopes of Kajmaktcalan. We were all, Serbians 
and British alike, very jubilant that night, and there was 
great festivity in the Serbian camp and our hearty 
congratulations were not wanting. 

The Serbians had still much hard fighting in front 
of them ere Monastir was to fall, and that fall was to be 
directly attributable to their magnificent efforts and 
extraordinary pluck. But they never fought a better 
fight than when the 3rd Royal Serbian Army, to which 
we were so proud to belong, captured the crest of 
Kajmaktcalan after an Homeric contest, and once again 
set foot on the beloved soil of their native land. 



CHAPTER XII 



THE WORK OF THE HOSPITAL 

I feel that some description of the work of the hospital 
will be expected of me. I approach the subject with 
considerable diffidence, having small knowledge of 
medical matters. I confess also to an instinctive shrink- 
ing from hospital work. Dead men and badly wounded 
men ; human nature can soon accustom itself to both 
without emotion. But when it comes to operations and 
to witnessing wounds being dressed I am no good. Con- 
sequently any deficiencies, and they must prove glaring 
to medical men, in the following account must be con- 
doned, since I never willingly saw more of that part than 
I could help. 

I will endeavour to describe the hospital after we had 
got organised, trusting that the description will convey 
to the reader the task the Scottish Women were engaged 
upon. The hours of meals upon which the organisation 
of all units must depend, I have mentioned. It became 
necessary to have relays of them to fit the various work 
of the departments, chiefly the wards. The relays 
followed each other in quick succession, so as to get 
each individual meal over and the mess tent free as soon 
as possible. Miss Jack was strict in these matters, and 
properly so. Women, unlike men, when engaged in 



IU AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



interesting work, or under a pressure of work, will sooner 
go without a meal or several meals than knock off to 
take them. Now this, although fine in a way, does not 
make for efficiency, since sooner or later the individual 
acting on this principle must break down, and then the 
machinery, which depends upon her as much as on the 
rest, gets out of gear. The point would not be worth 
mentioning were it not that it appears more than likely 
that women will have a larger share in the future in 
employments ordinarily confined to men before the war. 
If this is to be the case, the woman will have to learn 
this lesson of the absolute necessity of regular meal hours. 
You will ask what has this to do with the hospital ? 
Well, a good deal. We had our fair share of sickness, 
as I shall mention later. Under the existing conditions 
much of it could not be avoided, perhaps. It was a 
certainty. But from my own observations I am sure 
that in cases individuals let their keenness outrun their 
sense of proportion in this matter. The harder the work, 
the greater the privations, the greater the necessity for 
keeping the human frame up to the mark. Having had, 
perhaps, more than the average experience of roughing 
it, I offer these remarks to the women (and I can hear 
them snorting with indignation already). I believe 
them to be in their true interests if they wish to take 
a hand in the world's work of the future. Why this 
matter of sickness is mentioned at all is that it threw 
a great deal of additional work on the staff of certain 
sections of the hospital, and on none more than the 
wards. Of necessity they were the ones to suffer most, 
i.e. the doctors, sisters and orderlies. The hospital 
staff was calculated to a nicety for the work to be per- 
formed. Sickness tended to throw the machine out of 



THE WORK OF THE HOSPITAL 145 



gear, especially sickness which at one time amounted to 
10 per cent, of the effectives. We were not the only 
unit in Macedonia to suffer in this way by any means, 
but we had not as large a staff as most, and in practice 
it meant an extra ward to attend to, threw more work 
on Dr. Lewis, the medical officer of the party, and 
involved detaching a nursing staff ; and of course 
entailed anxiety on the already overworked C.M.O. 
To glance briefly at the hospital work. 

Dr. Bennett would start her day's work after break- 
fast by inspecting the camp, probably once a week 
including the tents of the personnel (one felt rather as 
if one were visiting young relations in a girls' school on 
these occasions, there was such a scurrying amongst 
the orderlies and chauffeurs). Inspection over, an hour 
or two would be spent in the office, where an indefatigable 
assistant, Miss Morrison, passed many hours of daylight 
and other light over the correspondence. The C.M.O. 
would probably then proceed to the operating theatre 
and remain the rest of the morning there. Part of the 
afternoon would be spent in her ward, although with the 
pressure of work she had to give this up in a short time. 
Then office would claim her for most of the rest of the 
day, unless visitors required showing round. Rarely a 
day passed without conclaves with Serbian officers, 
Colonel Sondermeyer from Salonika, Colonel Milosavlo- 
vitch from Ostrovo, a constant visitor of course, and so 
on. The C.M.O. passed busy days. 

The wards were divided up between Colonel Djeorge- 
vitch and Drs. Lewis, Cooper, Soott and Muncaster — four 
surgical wards, and one medical under Dr. Lewis. Dr. Mun- 
caster had a half-ward, as she was the bacteriologist and 
had charge of the laboratory , and the C.M.O. subsequently 

L 



146 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



relinquished hers. As would be expected, the work in the 
wards weDt on all day and late into the night during that 
first month, when the wounded poured into the hospital. 
I scarcely saw the doctors during that strenuous time 
save at meals, or when anything was wanted either for 
the wards or the operating theatre. Supper over, they 
went back to their wards or the theatre, to both of which 
their devotion was untiring and unflagging, a devotion 
which secured my whole-hearted admiration. The 
wounded coming in of course required this constant 
care and supervision. As a rule, only the very bad cases 
were sent to the hospital. The others went down, as 
occasion and room offered, by rail to the hospitals in 
the plain. The Scottish Women had to deal with men 
terribly shattered and broken by the fighting, undertaken 
on the exposed and rocky mountain sides, and it was a 
marvel not that some died, but that the percentage was 
not far higher than was actually the case. The wards 
were arranged, as I have said, with four tents apiece, 
the tents of each half-ward being connected by a 
passage way. Thus you could enter a half-ward at one 
end, walk down the centre of the two tents of which it 
was composed, and issue at the far end. In each tent 
were ten beds, five a side, twenty beds in the half-ward. 
The canvas sides of the tents could be rolled up in the 
daytime so that the wounded were able to get fresh air 
and have something to look at. On fine days a bed or two 
with its occupant would be carried outside. So far as I 
could observe, the dressing of the wounds was carried 
out by the doctors at any and all hours of the day and 
late into the night. I went into Dr. Scott's ward on 
several occasions when I could do so with safety — I mean 
to my own peculiar susceptibilities. There was a Serbian 



THE WORK OF THE HOSPITAL 147 



in it whom I greatly admired — a good-looking, open- 
faced man of some thirty-five years. As is customary, 
the doctors obtained the assent of the wounded man 
before performing an operation which meant losing a 
limb. Well, this man was told he must lose an arm, 
and point-blank refused. On being appealed to, every 
Serbian officer, medical and otherwise, tried to shake 
his determination, but he held to it. He would die if 
he must, but he would not have his arm taken off. One 
of the Serbian officers told me of it, and I thought " Poor 
devil ! " and then forgot the incident. Two days later I 
asked Dr. Scott, who had been greatly distressed over 
the matter, since he was in her ward, whether the man 
was yet dead, and was amazed to hear that he was not, 
and was not going to die. She took me in to see him 
a day or two after. He was sitting up in bed smoking, 
and as merry as a cricket. Doctor Scott translated my 
congratulations to him, but he read them in my face ; 
also my amusement that he should have " done " the 
doctors. All the poor fellows round who were in a 
condition to smile at all grinned appreciatively at their 
comrade. I saw him a good deal after that. As I say, 
I admired his pluck or obstinacy, call it which you will, 
and he always greeted me with a broad, delighted smile, 
thinking he had recognised in me a kindred spirit. I 
doubt, though, that I should have had the pluck. 

As to the operations, I can tell you very little about 
them. During that first terrible rush the demands on 
the operating theatre were very heavy. I remember 
that Dr. Scott was the last to get her first lot of cases in, 
and she had then eighteen. I know just enough about 
the aims of the surgeon to be aware that the surgeons 
of the S.W.H. at Ostrovo had during that first month 



148 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



opportunities for the practice of surgery which must 
be almost unique amongst the greater bulk of their 
confreres. Of this I was assured by R.A.M.C. officers, 
who had a first-hand chance of knowing the facts. More 

I cannot say. I witnessed the wounded pouring in, 
and I saw the operating theatre going from 9 a.m. to 

II p.m. during these days. In a week something like 
thirty operations were performed. It was a chance in 
a lifetime, and they were fortunate to be there to take 
it. In connection with the operating theatre was the 
X-ray plant installed by Captain Riddell and his 
assistant. Riddell was with us a bare week, his 
assistant another week. Then we were rather stranded. 
A sister had tried to pick up some knowledge of 
the plant, and one day appealed to me when the 
engine broke down, but I was ignorant. The M.T. 
once again came to our help. Dr. Lewis was equally 
hard-worked at this period. Although we were a 
casualty clearing station chiefly for wounded, it was 
necessary to have a medical ward, which soon filled, and 
there was also the personnel ward. Dr. Lewis is that kind 
of medical officer whom the layman understands instinct- 
ively and trusts implicitly, and consequently gets well 
all the quicker. Whether this gift is acquired or born 
in the doctor I do not know. But when there it is in- 
valuable. Drs. Lewis and Muncaster and a Serbian 
assistant were the chief ones I think to deliver the 
anaesthetic in the operation theatre, where they spent 
many hours. The latter being the bacteriologist also 
had charge of the laboratory, which was elaborately 
equipped and required much better housing than the 
small seven-foot tent which was all we could spare for it. 

The next place of importance was the reception tent, 



A PORTION OF ONE OK THE WARDS KILLED WITH WOUNDED SERBS 




SERBIAN WOUNDED BROUGHT DOWN FROM THE DRESSING STATION ON 
KAJMAKTCALAN IN THE S.W.H. AMBULANCES. A WOUNDED MAN JUST 
TAKEN FROM AN AMBULANCE BEING CARRIED BY SERBIAN ORDERLIES 
INTO THE RECEPTION TENT. DR. SCOTT (iN WHITE) ASSISTING 



THE WORK OF THE HOSPITAL 149 



in charge of Assistant Matron Harvey and her orderly, 
Miss Reid. This tent was pitched at the entrance to 
the camp. The ambulances came up in front as shown 
in the photograph. The Serbian ward orderlies took 
out the stretchers and carried them into the reception 
tent. Here the Assistant Matron and Miss Reid undressed 
and washed the men, put them into hospital kit, and 
despatched them to the indicated wards, of which they 
were furnished with a list of vacant beds. In the great 
period of stress after Gornicevo and Kajmaktcalan the 
ambulances came in at any hour of the day, and some- 
times late into the night, and carts might be expected 
to arrive at any time. Two orderlies were working 
here at that time, the late Miss 0. Smith helping. The 
work in the reception tent during this period was terrific, 
and how those women stood it I never understood, for 
they had no relief. It follows that the matron and the 
sisters in the wards had their hands very full at this 
time. The latter worked in two shifts night and day, 
special black linings having been provided for the tents 
in which the night nurses slept during the day, and 
their work during this period was incessant, and the 
time snatched for meals short and scrappy. This was 
inevitable, and with the nurses were included their ward 
orderlies. In addition to the Serbian staff of the wards 
there was one girl orderly to each half-ward, which was 
in charge of a nurse, with a more senior sister in charge 
of each ward under the doctor of the ward. The matron 
had charge of the ward's store tent, all ward require- 
ments coming from her. As these latter made constant 
claims on our big dump, which had constantly to be 
opened out and repiled, I got to know something on the 
subject of a hospital consumption in the way of bandages, 



150 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



wool, and so forth. The ward people's task was all the 
harder at first owing to the want of tables, chairs, 
shelves, trays, etc., which we lacked. Had we remained in 
Salonika these things would have been easily procurable, 
but we were sent up to the Front. Consequently till we 
could knock these up roughly in the carpenter's shop, 
all too small for our purpose, it meant extra work in 
fetching and carrying in the wards at a time of great 
pressure. We got them going in time, but neither the 
trays nor the dustpans were exactly of drawing-room 
or London hospital pattern. 

Belonging to the wards was the dispensary — almost, 
I think, the neatest thing in the whole camp. Fitted 
up in a ten-foot tent, the shelves, etc., knocked up in 
packing cases, this little place was a marvel of organised 
efficiency, and would have done credit to a hospital of 
any size. This was the handiwork of Miss Wolseley, who 
presided in this department. Outside the matron's stores, 
Miss Jack, the administrator of the unit, had entire 
charge of stores and general administration of supplies. 
She also acted as censor and half a dozen other things. 
So far as my personal observation went, if we except the 
cooks, she was the first up in the morning arid the last 
to make the rounds of ber domain at night. She always 
looked as if she had just stepped out of a band-box — 
so did many of the others for that matter. Don't know 
how they managed it. Miss Jack was, I think, born 
for her particular part of hospital organisation. She 
was naturally equipped with all the desiderata, and 
added to these special qualities that strict sense of rigid 
probity we associate with the Scottish character. Even 
in a land where the Greek example of " pinching," as 
the army designate it, rather undermined characters of 



THE WORK OF THE HOSPITAL 151 



less heroic mould, Miss Jack remained impervious and 
strong, and firmly shut her eyes to the lapses in this 
respect of the less rigidly moral amongst her companions. 
Ah, well, we cannot all be Miss Jacks — not in war-time 
in Macedonia at any rate. In her assistant, Miss Fowler, 
she found a most capable person, whose versatility I 
had already made acquaintance with in the checking 
party. The mess tent orderlies also worked under Miss 
Jack, and their task was, I think, one of the most thank- 
less and least interesting of the lot. 

The work of the sanitary engineer, Miss Gordon, 
I have already briefly described. Extraordinarily varied 
as it was, it could certainly not have been performed 
in the way she carried it out by any one not well versed 
in the duties and fully capable of discharging them. 
But her war life had already been diverse, as she had 
been taken prisoner in the Serbian show, and had had 
experiences which would have sufficed for a lifetime for 
most people. If she had here jobs which I did not envy 
her, they were (1) the disinfector, and (2) the incinerator. 
But sanitary medical science nowadays has been brought 
to a marvellous pitch. 

I propose to deal with the work of the ambulances, 
which was of first-class importance to the hospital, since 
it chiefly depended upon them, in the next chapter. 
Miss Bedford, who had joined at Ostrovo with Dr. 
Cooper from Australia, was in charge of the cars, and a 
hard worker she proved. Owing to her great efforts 
to keep the cars on the road by begging or borrowing 
spare parts from all and sundry, she became known 
amongst the M.T. as far down as Salonika way as " Miss 
Spare Parts," and I fancy she earned the cognomen all 
right. For a time she ran with Miss Reid the business 



152 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



connected with the bundles of clothes of the wounded, 
but with the hospital nearly full, and evacuations of 
men who could be moved to the base hospitals started, 
this work was made over to the Serbian Staff attached 
to us, and much relief was felt at getting rid of it. The 
mere enumeration of a wounded man's kit plus accoutre- 
ments plus every article he had on him (loaded revolvers 
of many patterns, cartridges, flares, even bombs, would 
come to light and frighten the investigating women 
half out of their lives, very naturally) absorbed a lot of 
time. And finding bundles belonging to men to be 
evacuated a good deal more. It required the time of a 
special staff. Lastly , there were those two important parts 
of the hospital organisation, the cook-house under Miss 
Kerr and the laundry under Miss Bishop. I have already 
alluded to both these. The work of both, heavy enough 
from the outset, became infinitely harder with the open- 
ing of the wards. The cooking for the latter was then 
separated from that of the personnel, a separate cook- 
house being built at the other side of the camp, Miss 
Kerr, cook-in-chief, superintending the operations of 
both. I never rightly understood how they coped with 
this cooking business with only wood to burn. But 
Miss Kerr and her very capable assistants managed very 
effectively. The laundry, as I have mentioned else- 
where, found good quarters, and some old women were 
unearthed to assist, but it remained, I am told, a job of 
gigantic magnitude. I think the bald narrative of the 
work the hospital was called upon to undertake before 
it was in anything like a thoroughly organised condition 
will prove the extraordinary efficiency it so rapidly 
acquired. This efficiency was, I think, due to two causes. 
Firstly, the example of untiring and unflagging industry 



THE WORK OF THE HOSPITAL 153 



set by the C.M.O. and the members of her staff of officers 
I have above enumerated. They never spared them- 
selves, and such an example could not but have a bene- 
ficial effect on the whole unit. Secondly, a certain pro- 
portion of the unit had been in Serbia before and during 
the retreat, and knew something of the conditions they 
were up against. Thirdly, the fact that wounded men 
were lying out on the surrounding mountains waiting 
till a hospital was ready to take them to, fired the 
Scottish Women to a white heat. Fourthly and lastly, 
there was a certain element of luck in the personnel 
itself. I mean in its composition — in the really extra- 
ordinary manner they fitted in together. All the more 
was this noticeable if there be any truth in the dictum 
that women do not find it easy to pull together. I would 
not wish to be understood to belittle the selection powers 
of Dr. Russell, mainly concerned with this business at 
the Edinburgh headquarters. But sixty to seventy is a 
large unit. In this case when a special post had to be 
filled — operating-theatre orderly, for instance — a member 
was found to fit the billet and do well in it. It need 
scarcely be said that for the latter post a person of a 
certain temperament plus nerves would be required. 
Well, they found her all right, and yet she saw her first 
operation in the Ostrovo camp operating theatre. And 
so it was in other cases. I have seen many a far smaller 
party of men go to pieces when a stress came. The 
Scottish Women did not crack, and each pulled her weight. 
And they had their reward, for it is beyond dispute 
that they saved many Serbian soldiers' lives after 
Gornicevo and Kajmaktcalan, men who must have died 
but for the work of the Scottish Women in the Ostrovo 
Hospital. 



CHAPTER XIII 



FINE WORK OF THE SERBIAN DRESSING STATIONS AND 
THE S.W.H. AMBULANCES : KRUSOGRAD 

The little field dressing stations of the 3rd Serbian 
Army close up behind the firing line were not the least 
interesting feature of the medical side of the war to the 
layman. Nowhere, perhaps, does one get quite so near 
the bed rock of human nature as at a dressing station. 
Under no other set of conditions perhaps is laid bare so 
often all that is best in mankind. Men suffering ex- 
cruciating agony may be seen, with a twisted smile, 
begging the doctor to attend first to a comrade, or a 
neighbouring prone form quite unknown to them, 
insisting that his case is worse than theirs, and that 
they can wait. Stoical courage, almost superhuman, is 
shown too under the doctor's hands. Medical men up 
at the Front see much of this side of human nature, 
and under the great stress of work take it more or less 
for granted whilst according their admiration without 
stint. It always left me dumbfounded. And beyond 
the dressing station and right up on to the battlefield 
what wonderful courage is shown ! The sight which 
always seemed to be the most pitiful was the case of the 
wounded and exhausted men who found their own way 



SERBIAN DRESSING STATIONS 155 



back to the dressing station. Here a couple might be 
met helping each other along, each sufficiently badly 
wounded to be a stretcher case ; but both stretchers 
and men to carry them were equally scarce with the 
Serbians. There two wounded are supporting between 
them a half fainting man who is dragging a leg painfully, 
cheerfully putting on the minute when they themselves 
may receive treatment to ensure the safety of their 
comrade. They are magnificent these common, one had 
almost written trivial, everyday incidents, which are 
to be seen in hundreds between the firing line and the 
dressing station. 

And these little Serbian dressing stations them- 
selves ! The Great War could show few better illus- 
trations, few more pitiful or pathetic illustrations, of 
what are to all intents and purposes the front line of the 
Medical Service, than the dressing stations of the 
Serbian Army out Gornicevo way or on the Drina 
below Kajmaktcalan during September, 1916. 

The Gornicevo dressing station was the first one our 
ambulances went up to. It was moved up as the army 
advanced, but the name may be left to it. Picture a 
handful of small bell tents, mostly old and in poor repair, 
pitched at the side of the mountain road. The ground — 
earth or rock — inside covered with a thin layer of straw, 
and on this straw lay the wounded, the severely wounded 
cases, many already beyond the help of man, even when 
armed with the highest surgical skill. There was no room 
for the sitting cases inside these tents, although many 
of these latter cases had bad wounds. They lay or sat 
outside on a little straw when the latter could be pro- 
cured. Hard by was a slightly larger tent — the floor 
of earth or mud — which formed the mess and sleeping 



156 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



accommodation of the Serbian Medical Staff of the 
station. There was no luxury here. A hard severe 
campaigning life the Serbian doctors led, accompanied 
by a terrific stress of work as the wounded poured into 
the tiny station in numbers which often entirely swamped 
its powers to deal with them. Up in this place the 
wounded lay after receiving dressings until they could 
be removed to the Casualty Clearing Stations. From 
the day of the fight for the Gornicevo crest, this station, 
with the shortest interval of rest, usually utilised in 
moving forward to keep pace with the advance, the rapid 
advance, of the fighting Serbs, was overflowing with 
wounded. The majority of the sitting cases were 
removed in carts, and in fact in every form of conveyance 
procurable. Those who could walk were dispatched on 
foot. The greater number of the severely wounded were 
removed in the ambulances of Mrs. Harley's * Transport 
Column and our own and were brought down to our 
hospital. The number of lives which the hospital saved 
for the Serbians must have been considerable in those 
days of severe fighting both from here and from Kajmakt- 
calan. Too high praise cannot be given to the Serbian 
doctors who had charge of these dressing stations, for 

* Whilst in France in the following March I read in the Times 
with profound sorrow of Mrs. Harley's death at Monastir on the 
7 th of that month. She was wounded by a shell, the town being 
under bombardment at the time, and died on her way to hospital. 
I had watched her work in Macedonia with amazement. She spent 
long hours in her ambulances going up the rocky mountain tracks 
to the dressing stations full of a fire and energy remarkable in one of 
her age. She had a great love for the Serbians and her one wish was 
to get to the Front. Almost one thinks she would have elected such 
a death as she has so nobly met. A worthy representative (she was a 
sister of Lord French) of a great family. They carried her down to 
Salonika, where she was accorded an impressive military funeral ; 
Prince George with his staff and the chiefs and staffs of the Allied 
nations, both military and civil, following her to the grave. 




COLONEL A. 



STOJCHITCH, WOUNDED ON KAJMAKTCALAN, ARRIVING 
AT THE HOSPITAL 



SERBIAN DRESSING STATIONS 157 



the manner in which they performed these first dressings. 
They earned high commendation from our own doctors 
and R. A.M.C. officers alike. There was never an instance 
of a slipped bandage in our hospital. When it is remem- 
bered that these mountain roads, down which the 
wounded after leaving their hands had to be brought, 
were practically only bridle-paths, the efficiency of the 
Serbian doctors, who lived a lonely hard life in these 
remote localities, was of a high order. The road up to 
Gornicevo was an extraordinary track to take an 
ambulance car, even a Ford one, when we first made its 
acquaintance. And, mind you, all the ambulances 
were driven by the girl chauffeurs. After leaving Ostrovo 
village the track runs, as I have said, along the north 
edge of Lake Ostrovo, nearly two miles of deep sand 
furrowed by some dozen or more deep parallel ruts which 
went in and out of deeper holes and gullies in which the 
car more often than not stuck and had to be pushed out 
by main force. You could take your choice between 
the pairs of ruts, but whichever pair you picked out 
invariably appeared the worst. Then the climb up the 
mountain by the rocky track began, and though subse- 
quently improved it remained a rocky track for most 
of the way, plentifully bestrewn with boulders and 
projecting rock masses. In many places two cars could 
only just pass on the track with little to spare, and as 
the journey was usually made midst innumerable trans- 
port, horses, mules, carts, ammunition caissons, often 
with teams of eight horses, men mounted and afoot, 
and cars of all sorts and conditions in long convoys, 
the arduous nature of the journey can be dimly imagined. 
The cars boiled, literally boiled, going up, and for this 
reason alone had to be stopped several times to cool 



158 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



down ; and the boiling usually upset the oiling, and the 
cars wouldn't restart. But if going up was a difficult 
and appallingly bumpy business, the coming down was 
worse. No Ford car brakes which are necessarily light 
would hold on these mountain tracks. The cars bumped 
down, now heeling over on one side, now on the other, 
as the wheels jolted over great masses of rock or boulders 
it was impossible to avoid, and on the steep slopes on 
many a journey the reverse was the only method of 
preventing the car taking charge when the brakes became 
functionless — and this with two badly wounded men 
on the stretchers behind. A passenger, doctor, nurse, 
orderly or any one available, always accompanied the 
driver nominally to look after the wounded — though they 
rarely wanted much attention en route. It was the car 
which needed that, either to push behind through deep 
sand in which one got smothered, to shove it with the 
help of passers-by out of ruts and holes and so on. 

But the road to Gornicevo, bad as it was, was nothing 
to the Drina. I have said that this was the dressing 
station below Kajmaktcalan (where the big fights of 
September 18th to 30th took place) situated some 5000 
odd feet up the mountain side. I have seen a good deal 
of the Himalaya both eastern and western, and have 
tramped and ridden miles in those beautiful mountains 
on tracks and bridle-paths rocky enough and steep and 
narrow enough to please any one. But it never entered 
my head in those days that I should see cars using, and 
be in cars using, such tracks. I should never have 
thought it possible that cars could negotiate such tracks. 
And yet this is what the S.W.H. girl drivers had to do 
on the Drina, probably the finest feat girls have ever 
done. Due north the track led after leaving Ostrovo 



SERBIAN DRESSING STATIONS 159 



for 2| miles of deep sand. Then the climb begins and 
it starts as it means to continue on an extraordinary 
steep gradient only varying to get steeper. The track 
was narrow, innocent of all improvement when we first 
knew it, with complicated turns, round which the cars 
invariably stuck and required propping up with stones to 
prevent them sliding backwards in spite of brakes. We 
got into the habit of carrying a few heavy rocks on the 
foot-board. As soon as the car stopped the passenger 
had to hop out, seize the biggest piece of rock, and get 
it under the wheel of the slowly slipping car. If you 
were not quick enough the car had gained sufficient 
momentum to go over the rock, and a frantic hunt would 
take place for a piece big enough to pull it up. This, 
be it remembered, with a steep slope or precipice to go 
over if the driver failed to keep an open eye backwards 
or the passenger was not smart enough with his props. 
It was lively work the Drina, but they got used to it, 
and so did the M.T. people ; although at that time 
these latter were not going far up — only about a third 
of the distance to the dressing station. You'd see a long 
convoy of Ford vans loaded with ammunition propped up 
in the same fashion and cooling themselves (and I might 
add their heated and swearing drivers ) . The ammunition 
and food supplies, etc., are taken on from here up the 
steep mountain track by horse and bullock cart, pack- 
horse, mule and donkey. The help the ambulances 
invariably received from the tired soldiery, English, 
French and Serbs, going up to the Front or coming down, 
was very nice to witness. You will see that going up 
was no picnic, but coming down was a somewhat fear- 
some feat with failing brakes. The rocky nature of the 
track and its narrowness made it difficult when one takes 



160 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



into account the constant stream of transport and the 
jams which so often occurred. To meet a long convoy 
of horse-drawn ammunition carts at a corner with restive 
horses was far from a joke, and one breathed a prayer 
when one got off with no more than the point of a shaft 
driven into the side of the car, and if at the same time 
you had the inside of the track. For the rule of keeping 
to the right was strictly adhered to for all, and cars had 
to take the outside and risk the precipice, if it was on 
the right, even when the passing vehicle was drawn by 
frightened and plunging horses. That we did not have 
serious accidents is due as much as anything to the skilful 
driving and extraordinary coolness of the girl drivers. 
And I speak from personal knowledge of cars, drivers, 
and roads. And there were of course continual accidents. 
In one of the worst the car went off the road down a 
precipice and two Tommies in it were burnt to death. 
As you commence to climb the track after leaving the 
deep sand at the foot of the mountain, the road runs 
through scrub with some oak trees. Near the upper 
limits of this a pretty village embosomed in trees, elms 
and oaks, is reached, the houses built of rough stone 
with red tiled or slate roofs — a typical mountain village. 
A temporary small dressing station here of three tents 
affords a resting-place to the walking wounded cases — 
for it is a long hot (or at night bitter cold) walk down 
from the upper dressing station. Above the village the 
mountain side is bare of trees, covered with patches of 
bracken already commencing to change to bronze and 
red, showing that the first autumn frosts have set in. 
Looking back a most glorious view of Lake Ostrovo with 
its encircling mountains is obtained with, beyond, the 
Gornicevo ridge, and the road and railway up the western 



A COMMON SIGHT ON THE MOUNTAIN TRACKS OK MACEDONIA. EN ROUTE 
I O THE DRINA DRESSING STATION, OCT. 1916 




SERBIAN DRESSING STATIONS 161 



shore of the lake, backed by mountainous ranges to the 
west of the Monastir plain. Continuing ever upwards 
over the stony track the crest of a high ridge is ultimately 
reached. The path here drops into a narrow gloomy 
defile which only permits of the passage of transport 
one way at a time. A Serbian soldier is stationed with 
a white flag on a pinnacle of rock, and signals to another 
on another peak across the defile and far above us. 
Traffic can only pass one way at a time. Transport is 
on the way down, and we have to wait here till the road 
is clear. A jam down in that defile is a terrific business. 
We were in several on occasions through mistakes on 
the part of the signallers or owing to convoys refusing 
to halt, and the pandemonium, confusion, and dust which 
reigned as a consequence is indescribable. This defile 
reminded me of some of those seen on the Afghan and 
Baluchistan frontiers in which, in our past Indian frontier 
campaigns, we have suffered from ambuscades. The 
photograph well depicts its appearance, for it exhibits 
to the life the gloomy impression which the defile must 
have left on the minds of all who have passed through 
it on the business of this war. 

After negotiating the defile and climbing up the back 
of a ridge the upper dressing station was reached. On 
the day I first went up the final assault on Kajmaktcalan 
was still to take place. The troops some three miles 
ahead were resting, and things were comparatively 
quiet. The dressing station consisted of a few tents 
for the staff and a long shed built of interlaced saplings, 
the interstices of wall and roof being stuffed with dead 
bracken. In this the seriously wounded were lying in 
rows on a layer of bracken. But for the bitter cold — 
for it was cold up here in the daytime — they were better 

M 



162 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 

off than in the wretched accommodation at Gornicevo. 
Many hundreds had already passed through this station, 
and the doctor's staff had been very heavily worked. 
It was a pretty spot, the tents and huts placed in a 
grove of beech and oak trees which clothed the slope at 
the back. One realised up here that autumn had 
descended upon the mountains. The bracken was 
changed to gold and brown, and the trees and mountains 
were rapidly putting on their autumn garb. It was a 
wonderfully pretty spot, and the views over Lakes Ostrovo 
and Petersko and the wild chaotic mass of mountains 
in which they lie buried were magnificent. 

But emphatically it is not a country to fight in, not 
under modern conditions of warfare. Even with un- 
limited transport of all kinds and men to get it up to the 
fighting line it would be difficult to guarantee the armies 
against either scarcity of ammunition or food. And 
the Serbs had no such abundance. The way they have 
fought is magnificent — stupendous. But it has meant 
an untold amount of extra exposure and suffering — both 
of which they are bearing with unbelievable fortitude 
and patience. What the Serbians have been through has 
to be seen to be credited. All honour to a brave race. 

It would be impossible here to deal at any length 
with the wonderful way the wounded were brought 
down from the dressing stations by these girls, or to 
describe in detail the coolness, resource and spirit they 
displayed. I will take three incidents from many. It 
was on the Drina. An ambulance going up to the 
dressing station got its off wheels on to a large rock mass 
and fell over on to its side. Riddell, of the R.A.M.C., 
who was with the driver, Miss Green, was shot out and 
rolled down the slope, being pulled up by a rock. He 



SERBIAN DRESSING STATIONS 163 



picked himself up, gave himself a shake, and finding 
he was not dead, climbed up to see what had happened 
to car and girl. There lay the car on its side, the wheels 
still revolving, and the girl still clinging to her wheel, 
also lying on her side. The engine was stopped, the 
driver hauled out and stood on her feet, and the first 
thing those two did was to swear at each other because, 
though each had a camera, neither had thought of taking 
a photograph before she- was hauled out ! Another 
occasion, on the Gornicevo trek this time. I had been 
up to near the firing line, and on my way back in the late 
afternoon we picked up one of the ambulances on its 
way down with wounded. As the driver, Miss Ross, 
was alone, I transferred into it. The ambulance had 
three wounded aboard. There was the usual trouble 
with brakes and so on, but the bottom of the long hill 
was safely reached. " Only one short steep bit more 
and we are off the hill," I had just remarked, when 
round the bend came a Ford ammunition van with a 
Serbian driver. We had to take the outside, a nasty 
place, and went within a foot of the edge. The Serb, 
in trying to leave too much room, got his off wheels up 
on to a big rock on the inner slope, slipped off this and 
crashed into us, his near fore wheel splintering into 
fragments and the axle jamming under our near hind. 
For a moment we thought we were over the precipice. 
I hopped out. Appalling cries and yells came from 
beneath the Serb's car, but before I could discover where 
the man was he crawled out quite unhurt. It was the car 
and the dressing down he would get that he was thinking 
of. The road was blocked, convoys of Fords coming to 
a halt above and below us. They had run out of 
ammunition at the Serb front up at Krusograd that day 



164 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



and were working at high pressure. Half a dozen 
Tommies ran up. We tried to lift the cars apart, but we 
were too few. As a Tommy remarked, " If the car had 
hit you a little higher up you'd have gone over all right." 
He said it quite appreciatively. Accidents of this kind 
were all in the day's work with him. An M.T. subaltern, 
Dibben, who had been on the Fraulein, appeared ; 
more Tommies descended upon us, for all the world like 
vultures on a carcase, and in a twinkling our car was 
lifted bodily from the other, and the disabled one lifted 
on to the upper slope and propped there with large 
boulders. The ammunition boxes were at once unloaded 
from her ; one of the empty cars above was lifted bodily 
round — there was no room to turn her, and precious 
little to get her facing up the hill again — loaded up, and 
dispatched on her way to the front. The M.T. methods, 
and discipline are perfect. We were then examined. 
Nothing but a mudguard bent down, jamming one wheel 
This righted we went on our way, and eventually arrived 
back home with nothing more serious than a couple of 
punctures in the deep sand, one after dark. A little 
incident which occurred at the block shows the kindness 
of Tommy's heart. The convoy of cars above the jam 
were empty, returning for ammunition. When we had 
got the road clear we found every one of the empty cars 
full up with wounded Serbs, walking cases, waiting 
patiently to be carried on to Ostrovo. " Where on 
earth did they come from ? " I inquired. " Oh," replied, 
the subaltern, " they got in whilst we were at work. 
They always do this whenever possible, and Tommy 
always takes them on, even though it means shorten- 
ing his period of rest." Small wonder that Tommy is 
liked, that the Mechanical Transport are sworn by by one 



SERBIAN DRESSING STATIONS 165 



and all out there " on the road " in Macedonia, where 
they sweat and toil and shiver by day and night and oft 
go hungry if working at the head of the line when am- 
munition has run short and has to take precedence of 
everything, rations and all. And Tommy likes his 
comrade the Serb, for he recognises in him a fine soldier, 
a merry-hearted fellow, childish in many of his ways, 
but always willing to share what he has, and ever patient 
and plucky under suffering and pain. My third incident 
illustrates without any endorsement the resourcefulness 
and pluck and spirit animating the girl drivers. It was 
on the Drina again. The ambulances left early one 
morning. Some vicissitudes were experienced. One 
car, however, got up and back with wounded by 1 p.m., 
and set off again for a second journey. On the way 
back the driver came across an ambulance which had 
broken down. After spending some time in futile 
efforts to start it she offered to take over the wounded 
— luckily there were only two — but she already had 
three. Night had fallen long before she restarted, and 
she was alone. Her drive down that mountain track 
was nervy work. But she stuck to it and eventually 
got back to the camp at 11 p.m. She had brought down 
seven wounded men that day (the ambulances only hold 
two lying-down cases or three sitting), and brought them 
down the Drina. It was a marvellous plucky feat. 
Her name is Miss Wardle. 

I had not had the opportunity of seeing anything 
of the operations which were being undertaken to the 
north and north-west of Gornicevo (after the fall of 
that place), nor of the country in which they were 
being carried out. Accordingly, I set out on a bril- 
liant morning at the end of the first week in October 



166 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



with this object in view. I went up as an extra with 
Major Wiltshire, R.A.M.C., who was staying with us 
for a few days, in one of the ambulances to the dressing 
station in this direction, intending to find my own way 
further up. The station had been moved forward, and 
was now some four or five miles north-west of Gornicevo, 
this being the first visit of the cars to the new place. 
On reaching the village our road turned sharp to the 
north through the latter, the street so narrow that in 
places there was only just sufficient width for the passage 
of the car. On leaving the village the mountain road 
climbs up on to a watershed which stretches for some 
seven or eight miles — a great stony, bare, windswept 
upland over which a piercing cold very strong head 
wind was blowing. On either side of the track miserable 
little trenches protected with low rough piles of stones 
stretched in segments across the mountain-side, every 
yard of which had been fought over by the Serbians 
when forcing back the Bulgarians on Krusograd 
after the Gornicevo fight. Higher up the trenches, 
built of stone, assumed the grouse-butt form, so com- 
monly seen on these mountains. These were scattered 
about in numbers and gave evidence of having been the 
scene of bitter struggles. Three miles or so from 
Gornicevo we came upon a line of trenches facing towards 
the village, the line to which the Bulgars had retreated 
after the capture of the latter. Unexploded shells and 
cartridges and shell cases littered the ground. It is a 
deadly country to fight in, practically treeless save for 
a low tree here and there, of gnarled and rugged shape 
when not smashed to pieces by shell fire. In one place 
lower down the slope a patch of wood was passed torn 
and riven by the guns. A French officer gave me a 



SERBIAN DRESSING STATIONS 167 



curious and interesting reason for the treeless state of 
Macedonia, for the accuracy of which I cannot vouch. 
He said it was supposed to be due to an old Turkish law 
which fixed the amount of taxes to be paid by landowners 
according to the number of trees they had growing on 
their land. To diminish the amount of taxes to be paid 
the landlord cleared off all his trees and thus brought the 
hillsides to their present state of barrenness. This would 
be very like the Turk. Its effect, however, has been to 
reduce the value of the agricultural land at the foot of 
the hills owing to the covering up of the soil by rocks 
and debris, the result of erosion in the hills now un- 
protected by trees, and to render the climate more un- 
healthy ; this latter opinion being widely held, and I 
think correctly so. The new dressing station was found 
near the top of the ridge, and from this point a fine view 
of the Monastir plain immediately below was obtainable. 
Fiorina, distinct to the naked eye, lay slightly to south- 
west, and Monastir, which required the glasses to make 
out, to the north-west. Between the two lay the strong 
Kenali entrenchments of the Bulgars, with the French 
and Russian lines a few miles to the south, both dis- 
tinctly visible in the clear atmosphere. Above the French 
lines hung motionless a sausage observation balloon. 

The dressing station had much the same appearance 
as the Gornicevo one already described. It was packed 
with wounded, and carts were being filled up with the 
less serious cases on our arrival. Whilst the ambulances 
were being loaded we had some lunch in a sheltered nook 
out of the keen wind on the hillside, and this picnic with 
the stone-built butts around us, so curiously like those 
we use for so different a purpose, had an extraordinary 
resemblance to a grouse-shooting lunch on a Scottish 



168 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



moor ; for the hillside here had a scattered scrub growth 
of juniper in places. 

An interview with the Medical Officers soon put me 
aufait as to the position of the Serbian firing line. The 
only question was how to get there. The return did not 
worry me as I had the rest of the day and night free. I 
was introduced to two officers who had been through 
the recent righting in this part. The junior of the two, 
a youngster barely twenty-three years of age, who had 
seen much service already, spoke English fluently, and 
said he was half English. He told me they had had a 
very bad time on these hills, as the barbed wire was 
rarely cut sufficiently to enable them to get through it 
without terrific casualties — their artillery being in- 
sufficient in number and weight, and the shooting not 
of the best, for want of sufficient practice. He and his 
companion were now going up to the Front to join the 
cavalry, who were going to try and come in on the right. 
In saying good-bye he remarked : " We may not meet 
again. I may get a bullet." 

I found out what I wanted. These officers were going 
to get a lift on in a Ford ammunition car, a convoy being 
due here. I learnt that the advanced ammunition 
dump had been shifted to Krusograd, ten miles on, the 
day before. It was great luck. I joined the convoy. 
My driver was an Irishman who solemnly warned me 
that the road was very bad. But I knew my Macedonian 
roads by then, and they could present no further terrors. 
The road dropped steadily and entered a narrow ravine 
which quickly became a defile, the bed of a watercourse 
running between steep cliffs. This bed consisted of 
sand interspersed with large loose boulders. Before 
we entered the defile proper we passed several dead or 



SERBIAN DRESSING STATIONS 169 



dying horses (how I wished I had brought a revolver 
with me), one of the bitterest aftermaths of a receding 
fighting line. 

Just at the entrance to the defile we came upon a 
stout wire entanglement which ran up over the hillside. 
The parts which had been stretched across the stream 
bed were in six to ten foot lengths, about five feet high, 
and made apparently so that they could be removed to 
allow of the passage of the retreating Bulgars and then 
replaced. The defile itself, which runs for several miles, 
exactly resembled those seen and used in a similar 
manner in Baluchistan. It serpentined in an extra- 
ordinary fashion. 

For several miles you could never see more than 
fifteen to twenty yards ahead, and in many places it was 
only wide enough to take a car. The jams occurring in 
such a place can be better imagined than described. 
The river-bed drops gradually the whole length. Even- 
tually the sides lowered, the bed broadened out a little, 
and we finally ran into a narrow valley and picked up 
the track which runs over the hills to the west (for there 
is an alternative route to the defile, though by all accounts 
an infinitely worse one). A stream bordered by willows 
and poplars runs along the north side of the valley, and 
this, after about three-quarters of a mile, we crossed, 
and had reached Krusograd, a pretty but very dirty 
little village buried in a grove of trees. The tiny valley 
lost amongst the hills is dotted with trees either standing 
singly or in little clumps, and under each and all were 
encamped soldiers or horses, mules and donkeys. The 
place was seething with troops. We were just behind 
the Serbian trenches. Across the stream the ground rose 
to a low ridge, all plough land, and this area was seamed 



170 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



with trenches protected by wire entanglements. All 
yesterday and last night the Serbian assault of these 
trenches had been carried on, the Bulgars being ejected 
in the early hours of the morning, retiring to a position 
two to three miles away. The Irishman had told me 
something of this. The little M.T. party under a sub- 
altern had momentarily expected throughout the night 
to be 'blown to bits. 

The ammunition dump was close to the far bank of 
the stream. We pulled up there and I got out and, 
whilst the convoy was being unloaded, had a look at the 
wretched village ; it had escaped shelling to a great 
extent, but there was little to shell, the guns on both 
sides firing over it. From this point the ammunition 
was being taken up by cart and pack mules to the 
trenches about half a mile or so away. 

Recrossing the stream we went up to the three or 
four bell tents which formed the M.T. camp. Here I 
found the subaltern. He offered me a very acceptable 
drink, but said he was sorry he could not give me lunch 
as they were without rations. The position up here was 
sufficiently serious. The Serbs had run out of rifle 
ammunition. What this meant all acquainted with 
modern warfare will appreciate. The convoy which had 
brought me up represented the subaltern's detachment 
up here. As soon as they had had their very atten- 
uated meal the men would go back on their long trek 
to bring up more ammunition. What had become of 
their rations he did not know, but anyway everything 
had now to give way to the ammunition. He was going 
back down the line with the convoy to see that a message 
went through to the Colonel commanding at the Ostrovo 
camp , detailing the exact present position #f the Serbs. 



SERBIAN DRESSING STATIONS 171 



I whistled at this budget of information. If the Bulgars 
counter-attacked here it would be a bad business. With 
a lead of some twenty to thirty miles of mountain tracks 
between Krusograd and Ostrovo, and Ford vans the only 
possible rapid conveyance, the position was sufficiently 
grave. I was to witness that day the magnificent way 
it was grappled with all down that long difficult line 
of communication. 

Having ascertained that I could be given a lift back, 
I left the subaltern to the work he was engaged upon 
after going over the positions of the Serbs here on the map 
I had with me (the subaltern had no map — said only the 
C.O.'s of the companies had them!), and went off to carry 
out some investigations of my own. The possibility of 
the hospital being moved in this direction had formed 
one of my objects in coming on this stunt. But this I 
had long ago dismissed as impracticable. 

On the hills east and south-east immediately above 
the little valley Serbian batteries were stationed, and 
these opened fire soon after my arrival, and continued 
an intermittent bombardment all the afternoon. 

At the end of three hours or so the convoy began to 
re-form, and I returned. As I came up I heard the 
subaltern say to his orderly, " Cut me off a slice and give 
the rest to the men." This was in reference to a loaf of 
bread, which already was not a whole one. It was all 
the food that remained in the subaltern's tent. And 
there was scant chance of his seeing more that night. 
We started off at the head of the convoy in a stripped 
Ford, i.e. a Ford with the sides and top taken off, leaving 
only the driving seat and a planked bottom at the back 
without sides. This type is the patrol car of the M.T, 
subalterns in these parts. Driving in one of these 



172 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



machines is a nerve-racking, bone-aching, fearsome joy. 
A corporal drove, I sat beside him (and you have to hold 
pretty tight not to be shot out, as the space left by the 
driver is of the scantiest), and the subaltern squatted 
behind. The orders were to go ahead as his mission was 
most urgent. The pace we went up that defile was 
astonishing. Only constant practice on the Macedonian 
roads on the part of the driver could have enabled him 
to take the car along in a dubious safety. The stream 
bed was mostly dry, but here and there were intervals 
of slushy mud. We went through these in a miniature 
shower bath of liquid mud which soon covered us from 
top to toe. Luckily we were only once pulled up for 
traffic, and that took some moving. At the upper end 
of the defile we passed a small convoy of ambulance 
mules carrying wounded on side saddles. The diffi- 
culty of getting the wounded back from Krusograd, 
where there are still numbers, is appalling. At the 
dump at the dressing station things were much the same. 
Nothing had yet appeared from lower down the line. 
We therefore ran on to Gornicevo, through that village 
and down towards the long defile. At its head we found 
a new ammunition dump just being started, and an M.T. 
subaltern (one of the two who had been aboard the 
Fraulein) in charge. The gravity of the position 
was, he thought, understood lower down, but my com- 
panion determined to go on and see for himself. As I 
was now in no hurry I remained at the new dump, in- 
tending to return with my friend. All sorts of delays 
occurred, and we did not get back to the M.T. mess till 
dinner time. Things were humming in that camp. 
Apparently every possible car was being turned out, and 
two companies were detailed to work the upper line from 



WOUNDED SERBIANS BEING BROUGHT BACK FROM THE FIRING LINE ON A MULE 




THE M.T. CAMP AT KKUSOGRAD. VILLAGE IN CLUMP OF TREES. A HEAVY 
BOMBARDMENT IS GOING ON IN THE HILLS ON RIGHT WHERE SHELLS ARE 
SEEN BURSTING 



SERBIAN DRESSING STATIONS 173 



the dressing station through the defile to Krusograd. 
Only one of the men at the table had ever been to 
Krusograd or knew anything of the conditions. Three 
left the mess tent as soon as we arrived, in charge of 
the line of noisy cars, each with its twin lights blazing, 
which were forming up on the road outside the camp. 
When I left the camp at about 11 p.m. all but two 
officers had departed for the road and the CO., instead 
of turning into his bed, got into a car to go up the line, 
where he expected to spend the night and next day. 
They hoped to replenish Krusograd in twenty-four to 
thirty-six hours, but how they were going to tackle the 
defile and prevent bad jams in it and consequent delay 
was an open question. 

It need scarcely be added that the job was done, and 
the men at the head of the line at Krusograd got their 
rations — next day. 

I may add that I have no personal interest in the 
Ford car, which to some may appear to come rather 
frequently into these pages. We all know that the 
British motor engineering shops were turned into ammuni- 
tion makers. On our front, the Serbian front, the trans- 
port of the main bulk of the supplies, once the short 
length of the fifty-mile strip of the Salonika plain had 
been left behind, depended on the M.T. light transport 
service of Ford vans, and the efficiency of that service, 
all run by men of the new armies, was a marvel to watch. 
I have yet to see the track along which our Tommies 
cannot take their Ford vans, and do not believe it 
exists. On one front at least we are working cheaply — 
not perhaps because we intended to or wanted to, but 
because this particular car with its easily duplicated 
parts manages to stand the racket and do the work 



174 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



on these mountain tracks. To see Tommy, cap on back 
of head, a fag in the corner of his mouth, face, eyebrows, 
and hair grey with dust, driving his Ford through or 
over everything up and down those awful mountain 
tracks, is to see a sight which makes one gasp and hold 
the breath — till one gets used to it. " Six weeks is the 
life of this 'ere car," says Tommy. He is not quite 
correct, but they are cheap, very cheap, at the price paid 
and for the work obtained. 



CHAPTER XIV 



THE BATTLEFIELD OF KAJMAKTCALAN 

(The following account was written down on the battlefield 

itself.) 

The Battle of Kajmaktcalan was fought, as I have 
narrated, by the Serbians between the middle and end 
of September, 1916. The mountain is the highest in the 
Moglena Ranges, in which the newly reformed Serbian 
armies took up positions facing the Bulgarians in the 
past summer. On the capture of the exceedingly strongly 
entrenched positions on the Kajmaktcalan depended the 
further advance into the Cherna loop, and as it subse- 
quently appeared the capture of Monastir itself. 

It was early in October that the Serbian colonel, who 
had been wounded in the arm in the fight and been sent 
down to the hospital at Ostrovo, offered to conduct us — 
Dr. Bennett and myself — over the battlefield. Colonel 
Stojchitch had lost two-thirds of his regiment in the 
attacks, had acquitted himself with gallantry and, as we 
heard on our way up, had been promoted to the com- 
mand of a brigade. He is a fine specimen of a 
magnificent fighting race. 

We left Ostrovo at dawn, climbing up the lower slopes 
of the great mountain in the touring car by the execrable 



176 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



bridle track. High up on the mountain-side, as I have 
said, is the Serb dressing station which our ambulances 
so often visited, and getting there and back was no child's 
play as we have seen. We eventually arrived at the 
dressing station without mishap, where the Serbian 
medical staff insisted on our staying and partaking of 
the inevitable Turkish coffee and cigarettes. Cars had 
never been farther up than this, but we decided to try 
another few kilometres and so sent on the ponies to a 
little upland valley situated above the tree limit, where 
also we proposed to have an early lunch. Leaving the 
dressing station we continued on upward. The mountains 
arc for the most part bare, consisting of a white gneiss 
giving a streaky appearance to the hillsides. But 
there are patches of fine beech forest here and there with 
scant juniper and a little pine at the uppermost levels. 
Clumps of young beech seen in places make it evident 
that the unchecked goat and sheep grazing which has 
taken place over these hills from time immemorial is 
now chiefly responsible for their present deplorable 
state of barrenness. 

The battlefield for which we were making was situated, 
however, far above the forest level, and we had left the 
latter before we finally reached the little upland valley. 
The similarity of the mountains and of the little valley 
itself to parts of the Himalaya is extraordinary and it 
was easy to imagine oneself back again on one of those 
many camping trips in the happy days of peace. Here 
the scenery was the same — the sunlight on the mountains, 
the flicker of it in the little stream, and the autumn tints 
on the low plants growing in the valley with the dead 
flowers and seed heads attached to them reminded me 
of many an upland valley in the Himalaya. Only the 



THE BATTLEFIELD OF KAJMAKTCALAN 177 



scene was here marred, however interesting it is in the 
plains, marred by the eternal stream of armed men on 
horse and afoot, carts, mules, donkeys, etc., going up 
and down on the business of war. How absolutely out 
of place, how incongruous it seemed amongst these great 
hills, these eternal mountains, that man should have the 
effrontery to bring his petty strifes up into their great 
silent spaces. The C.M.O. asked where the shell-holes 
and craters were as none were visible. On the barren 
rugged slopes little impression could be made by even 
man's biggest guns, and save in soft patches which we 
occasionally found higher up, there were few shell scara 
of any importance to show that a great battle had been 
waged up the great mountain side. The various positions 
could be seen, and the colonel pointed out three main 
Bulgarian ones which had to be taken as they advanced 
up to the final tussle on the crest of the great mountain 
far above us. The trenches, at times good and of fair 
depth but usually mere apologies in the hard rock with 
breastworks built up like the sungars of the Afridi, were 
much en evidence, and as we climbed up the barren moun- 
tain side on our ponies it was easy to trace out the whole 
battle. And what a task it was — all practically in the 
open. Down from one great shoulder of a mountain into 
a dip and then up the swelling barren stony curves of 
the great Kajmaktcalan (see Frontispiece). It was a task 
fit for gods instead of puny men, but men in the shape 
of Serbs accomplished it, though at what cost is best 
known to themselves. They must have lost heavily 
in killed, for no quarter was given on either side if they 
could help it. But these men fought as gods, for on 
that crest lay the door to their country and what man 
would not fight for that ! Each man who came out 

N 



178 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



alive from that battle will feel to his dying day that he 
had a hand in winning back his country, for when they 
turned the Bulgars out of the uppermost trenches and 
drove them routed down the opposite side they had 
set foot in Serbia once more. All this I understood well 
a little later when I stood with the colonel in the trench 
in which he was wounded and he explained the position 
and the end of that bloody struggle on the heights. 
To understand the position it is necessary to picture a 
series of ridges or great folds in the ground, each one 
rising upward ; as one reaches the crest of one another 
crest is seen beyond, and consequently one is constantly 
rising till finally you reach the top of a fold and from here 
the ground ascends gently to the absolute crest line of 
Kajmaktcalan, where it dips steeply and more or less 
precipitously. Over these great folds, along which were 
three main lines of Bulgar trenches, the Serbs had to 
advance, and the positions of the advancing parties 
could be plainly recognised by the tiny excavations 
they scooped out as they lay down whilst a murderous 
fire poured over them ; here the spade was of little 
use and it was poor little heaps of stones, gathered 
with God knows what stress and fear tugging at the 
man's heart as he strived to protect himself from 
the deadly hail, that were most in evidence. The 
main trenches consisted chiefly of boles of varying 
size, often with a breastwork of stone which had been 
hurriedly built up by the Serbs on the reverse side after 
they had turned the Bulgars out ; but here and there, 
where the ground was easier to work in, the trench lines 
were more or less contiguous. The gun emplacements 
showed the same kind of formation, dug as deep as the 
rock would permit and then protected further by walls 



THE BATTLEFIELD OF KAJMAKTCALAN 179 



and breastworks of loose rocks. The ground was covered 
with the wreckage of war, — rifles, bayonets, trench 
helmets, caps, shell cases and empty bombs, and an 
astonishing number of unburst shells and bombs, besides 
trench mortars, wire cutters of great size and strength, 
and large amounts of rifle cartridges. The first or 
lowest series of trenches was protected by a most for- 
midable wire entanglement which stretched right across 
the mountain irrespective of the configuration of the 
ground. It must have been a superhuman task to get it 
into position. It had only been broken in short lengths 
here and there by the guns. This position was of extra- 
ordinary strength and it seemed impossible that the 
Serbians should have captured it as they did on the 
18th-19th of September. But they had other strong ones 
still in front of them before the crest was reached. As 
we got higher a bitter wind was blowing and this froze 
us to the marrow in the two and a half hours we spent 
up there. At the bottom of the last rise on what may be 
called the top of the mountain we dismounted and in- 
spected a heap of the debris of war. Here were a few 
rifles, most of the good ones were being collected by the 
Serbs as their war trophies, bayonets, Serbian (i.e. 
French) and Bulgar, trench helmets and Bulgar caps, 
besides bombs of all kinds, English, French and Bulgar 
(all the Serb equipment is either French or English, as 
after the defeat of last year they have of course nothing 
of their own and are being equipped by the British and 
French), clothing, cartridges, entrenching tools and all 
the other various paraphernalia of war. From here we 
selected such small trophies as it would be possible to 
take back. We then went on and reached the first line 
of trenches of the last Bulgar position. These were dug 



180 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



to a considerable depth, big enough for a man to stand 
in and provided with funk holes. It was here that 
we came suddenly upon the first dead. It was a ghastly 
sight and coming on it suddenly all the more shocking. 
Two Bulgars lying in the trench on their backs in 
contorted positions, the one with mouth open and face 
set in a diabolical and ferocious grin. That face was 
like no man's face I have ever seen, and will remain for 
long in my memory. The face of the other was merci- 
fully hidden. Close by, the legs up to the knees of another 
man, buried under the debris caused by a bursting shell, 
protruded. No picture of the ghastly effects of modern 
warfare could be stronger than that short length of 
trench. As one looked down it to the right, other bodies 
could be seen in various positions. Coming up we had 
seen numbers of a very fine blackish eagle soaring low over 
the crest of the hill , and one guessed what their presence 
portended. Here we saw it in all its ghastliness. Over 
the high ground we proceeded, stepping down into the 
trench and climbing out at the other side at a little 
distance from the bodies, cumbered as it was with the 
debris of war and rocks and stones, till we came to the 
second line of trenches. Big, strong, deep, affairs these 
(for this part of the world) cut well down into the 
hillside and running continuous for some distance. A 
little way ahead were deep holes cut in the hillside and 
faced with stone breastworks. This was a formidable 
line to take (see plate facing p. 140) and here the struggle 
had been very fierce. Standing on the near edge of one 
of them the colonel pointed out the spot at which he had 
been wounded. He was standing on the top of the 
trench at the time and a man who so exposed himself, 
it is easy to understand, would be well beloved by his 



THE BATTLEFIELD OF KAJMAKTCALAN 181 



men. And he is. All up and down the hill to-day we 
saw it. What remains of his regiment is now on the line 
of communications, and we kept meeting his officers, 
all of whom greeted him with hearty effusion. But more 
important and far nicer was it to see the look of incredulity, 
changing to one of joy, on the faces of his men, N.C.O.'s 
and privates, when they saw their colonel, whom many 
of them believed dead, alive and amongst them again. 
It was beautiful. These trenches were well built and had 
been reversed by the Serbs when they took them. But 
they did not get this line without a terrific fight and 
bloody struggle for the Bulgars knew that their line near 
the crest was weak compared to the second. We spent 
some time at these trenches examining them thoroughly 
and they were worth it. To take them the Serbs had to 
come up over the open, sheltering behind rocks and what- 
ever afforded shelter. These trenches being dug in the 
rock had suffered little damage from the artillery, which 
had, however, cut the wire entanglements, not so strong 
up here. Whilst the infantry attack was taking place 
the guns lifted and poured in their fire on to the third 
line higher up and more or less on level ground. Here 
the damage done was terrific and both trenches and 
ground behind them are littered with dead Bulgars, 
whilst in many cases all signs of a trench is obliterated. 
There is one of this line of trenches which is particularly 
hideous. Here a whole line of Bulgars was either mown 
down or killed by gas shells and lie in every conceivable 
position. At a distance they look as if they were asleep, 
but from their tattered clothing as one approaches one 
knows that their sleep is the sleep of death and that the 
death has been a violent and bloody one. It is a ghastly 
scene that one. Some of the faces are calm, but for the 



182 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



most part they are contorted with rage ; and as these 
people are particularly swarthy, with a cast of countenance 
by no means prepossessing to English eyes, the looks 
impressed on their faces are singularly savage, relentless 
and ferocious. In other cases the poor dead faces were 
set with a look of agony, showing well the pain in which 
the men had died up there in the cold untended ; though 
few had been left to suffer long once the battle was over, 
if all accounts are true as to the methods of both Bulgar 
and Serb when they get at each other in this war. But 
if the men whom one could recognise as men were bad 
to look upon, those which were only recognisable as such 
from their shape were more appalling still, for there were 
many with faces turned to a hideous black and in many 
cases these had eyes and other parts torn out by the eagles, 
who had already begun their ghastly feast. These were 
revolting to a degree. I have recorded these impressions 
of what I saw whilst still quite fresh in my memory, since 
in a war of this magnitude it is only right that all 
should realise to the full what it is really resulting in in 
different parts of the world. The battle of Kajmaktcalan 
shows it in a particularly hideous fashion. 

A short distance from these ghastly trenches brought 
us to the crest of the mountain and a stupendous view 
burst upon the eyes. The ground falls more or less 
steeply from the crest, in places being precipitous but 
nowhere so steep but what an active man could get down. 
On the three sides range upon range of hills pile up to 
the horizon, save to the west where over the lower 
mountains a fine view of the plain is obtained with 
Monastir in the top N.W. corner. Prilep, due north from 
us, is in the foothills and could not be distinguished. 
Monastir is as prettily situated as Fiorina and is a larger 



SERBIAN OFFICERS AND THE AUTHOR ON THE EDGE OF THE CREST OF 
KAJMAKTCALAN WITHIN SERBIAN TERRITORY 




A SERBIAN ROYAL ENGINEER OFFICER SURVEYING ON THE CREST OF 
KAJMAKTCALAN. HE IS LOOKING OUT OVER THE MOUNTAINS OF SERBIA 



THE BATTLEFIELD OF KAJMAKTCALAN 183 



town. Seen in the clear atmosphere to-day it glittered 
and gleamed with its numerous white minarets and spires. 
It must be a fine city. In the plain the long line of dust 
and smoke showed that Kenali and the rest of that posi- 
tion was still in the hands of Bulgars, and that a heavy 
bombardment was being maintained. Up here on the crest 
trenches and gun pits were cut out on the very edge so 
as to command both upland slopes and downward ones. 
These were roundish places cut as deep as possible and 
given a parapet of rough stones as depicted in the photo- 
graph. These stretched along the crest and had gun 
emplacements set further back from which the Bulgars 
had been shelled when they finally retreated from the 
mountain top. We met a party of four Serbian officers 
up here engaged upon a topographical survey of the 
country. The existing maps (of the Allies) are very 
inaccurate. The French apparently credit the British 
with having good maps of the country — but I don't 
know that we place implicit reliance in our own. Any- 
way the Serbs have got under weigh quickly, and are 
making use of the time they are on the Macedonian 
frontier to get some good maps produced. The frontier 
runs along close to the crest line, and the 5th Infantry 
Regiment after the fight erected a stone boundary 
pillar and inscribed it as follows : — cc This pillar was 
erected by the 5th Infantry Regiment in commemora- 
tion of the fact that this gate of our beloved country 
was captured from the Bulgars by the soldiers of 
the 5th Infantry on 30th September, 1916." A fine 
monument to the regiment, and no better will be needed 
in memory of the brave men they lost that day. It was 
bitterly cold in the keen wind up at this elevation. One 
looks right over Albania, Serbia, Greece, and Bulgaria 



184 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



from this point. The lake Ostrovo appears a tiny pond 
and two other lakes to the west of it are visible. In 
fact the country below looked like a relief map or 
globe. Down below us to the north tiny puffs of smoke 
on the next range to us indicated where the Serb 
position now was, the Bulgar position being on the ridge 
beyond. The whole country which lay spread before 
us was a chaotic mass of mountains, and the communi- 
cation problem never presented itself in a clearer manner 
or showed its formidable difficulties in a stronger light. 
One could see here and there the thin ribbon of a road 
winding its way along. Along that road all the ammuni- 
tion and supplies for this part of the front must be carried. 
Already the Serbs have moved so fast, comparatively 
speaking when the nature of the country is considered, 
that the M.T. are having the greatest difficulty in getting 
up the supplies, and the evacuation of the wounded 
has become a truly serious matter, since all have to 
be brought out on mules, in carts, or, as in the case 
of a wounded officer seen to-day, on stretchers. Twenty 
to thirty kilometres on a stretcher is a serious matter, or 
on a mule or in carts, for badly wounded men. How 
the problem is to be solved in such a country passes 
comprehension. True we do this kind of thing on the 
Indian frontier. But there the main bulk of our forces 
are always Indians who eat rice and our artillery is con- 
fined to mountain guns carried on mules, and the cavalry 
to a squadron or two. In this war such equipment 
would be useless. Big guns have to be taken along ; 
forage for artillery horses, and some cavalry, and for 
horses and animals of all kinds employed in the carriage 
of munitions and supplies. And the men require bread 
in large amounts and also meat once or twice a week. 



THE BATTLEFIELD OF KAJMAKTCALAN 185 



Bread is the chief staple of the Serb soldier's food. The 
colonel told me to-day that the Serb does not consider he 
has eaten unless he gets bread. Even if he has meat 
and is not given bread he says he has not eaten ! And 
his daily bread ration is a large one. How they eat 
this Serb bread I do not know. It is the only thing 
out there I could not eat. The Serb officers always 
toast it — great thick slices toasted. They say it is 
unedible if not toasted. 

Having seen our full of the trenches on the crest and 
the magnificent view, we started back, seeing a different 
set of trenches and another line full of Bulgar dead. By 
now we were all frozen with the cold, the wind being 
colder and stronger than ever, and glad we were to climb 
on to the ponies and drop down the hillside to a warmer 
temperature. We met lines of transport going up with 
ammunition, the men in their great coats looking very 
weary and cold. Poor devils, life is hard on these Serbs, 
as also on the French artillerymen up here, though they 
look happier and take things philosophically. But I 
pity the lot of those campaigning up at this elevation 
with winter upon them. We reached the car in far 
quicker time than it took us to get up, and climbing 
in dropped down the hill at a pace which might have 
resulted in disaster. The colonel's mysterious behaviour 
of the morning over the lunch business, at which he ate 
nothing, now became clear, for after greeting various men 
of his regiment on the way down he stopped at the clear- 
ing we had halted at on the way up. There he had gone 
off to talk with some Serb officers, but we had paid no 
attention to it, being too intent on taking photographs. 
It was in a beech wood where there were some beautiful 
young natural woods and regeneration. Two officers 



186 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 

came up, the car stopped and a remark that I had made 
about the probability of a Serbian beano on the way down 
was justified, though I had expected it at the dressing 
station, and as it turned out they had also prepared one 
of the same kind. The Colonel got out and coming round 
said : — " Et maintenant, monsieur, nous allons manger 
un pen." Out we got and were led through a bit of young 
forest to an arbour constructed of young beech saplings 
and a small Serb tent on the windy side. In it stood a 
table, two forms, and two stools, given to us as the guests 
of honour. The latter had been up at Kajmaktcalan and 
were riddled with bullets. Four officers were present, 
and we sat down to a real Serbian dinner at about 4 p.m. 
My word I was hungry and that was a feast. It began 
with a glass of cognac, white bread and beautiful 
Normandy butter, in small tins. Then soup, three large 
meat courses followed by brains (beautifully cooked) and 
the inevitable compote. Red wine in large amounts 
and Turkish coffee. The Serbs eat enormously and 
quickly. There was a red thing called a papaver — a 
large kind of chili, and a curious salad. It made a 
pleasant ending, because so typically Serbian, to an 
eventful day. The conversation was wholly in French, 
though two of the officers present knew none, and was 
most interesting. The difficulty was in refusing to eat. 
The Serbs would take no refusal and one had to tackle 
each course as it came along. 

Night was approaching as we bade our kind hosts 
farewell, climbed into the car and set off down the 
mountain side. A glorious sunset bathed the hills in 
reds and golds which were reflected in the lake below. 
We were often held up by the masses of transport on its 
way to the front. Bullock carts in numbers, long blue 



THE BATTLEFIELD OF KAJMAKTCALAN 187 



French carts, with horse teams, carrying up ammunition 
for the heavy French batteries, manned by Frenchmen 
attached to the Serb armies. Mules in hundreds and 
thousands carrying up ammunition boxes and being 
ridden or led down again. Donkeys carrying heavy 
loads. The ubiquitous Ford vans running up ammunition 
to the advance dumps high up the mountain side. 
Horse ammunition carts in countless numbers filled with 
live shells ; four-horse teams drawing artillery caissons 
also filled with live shells placed in a kind of huge test- 
tube rack. Officers and soldiers, as individuals or in 
small parties, on foot or on horseback going up to the 
front or coming back with dispatches, etc. And saddest 
of all the wounded being brought down in every con- 
ceivable kind of conveyance, the one object being to get 
them to the hospital. The scene, with the shades of 
night falling on the great mountain and spreading a pall 
of darkness over everything, whilst the light of the sun- 
set was still reflected on the mountain tops and down in 
the lake, will long remain with me as an ineffaceable 
memory. 

Once free of that mountain road we went over the 
long stretch of deep sand at a fair pace and without 
coming to grief, which is always to be expected, and were 
back in camp by 7 p.m., where supper was in full progress. 
But we felt little like supper. 



CHAPTER XV 



OUR SERBIAN FRIENDS 

Sickness was rife amongst all units in Macedonia last 
summer. Some of us attributed a part of it at least 
to the dust constantly swirling and eddying in sheets 
on every road used by the troops throughout the 
country. It was quite impossible to avoid taking this 
fine penetrating dust into the system. How it operated 
there I leave to the decision of medical men. Most of 
us were only interested in results ! The two prevailing 
complaints were a nasty form of malaria, resembling 
in some of its aspects what we used to call jungle malaria 
in India, and dysentery. And when attacked by the 
two together the result to the patient was peculiarly 
distressing and on occasions led to fatal results. The 
Ostrovo camp had its share of sickness. And with a 
staff calculated to a nicety for the work in hand, sickness 
meant extra work for those keeping fit. 

Mercifully the doctors kept well. One wondered 
how they managed it, and at the capacity they exhibited 
for work. In fact all the men up there, British, Serbian, 
French, and Russian officers alike, who watched the 
work of the Ostrovo camp day by day, marvelled how 
women could face uncongenial surroundings and con- 
ditions of life so entirely new for many of them, accom- 
panied by the constant booming of the guns, not to say 



OUR SERBIAN FRIENDS 189 



the possibility of being bombed at any moment, and yet 
do their work with the thoroughness characteristic of 
the unit. Most of the money which provided the 
equipment of this unit had been subscribed in America, 
and I can assure the Americans that for every dollar 
so subscribed, full value was obtained, and many Serbian 
lives were saved. I feel that I can safely say this without 
seeming to praise myself. The hospital part of the work 
was not within my province. As a non-medical man I 
stood aside and watched with growing admiration the 
methodical and determined manner in which the unit 
worked. 

And they did not come out of it without loss. The 
sergeant of orderlies, Olive Smith, succumbed to bad 
malaria and died on the evening of October 6th, throwing 
the unit, in their mountain camp, into deep gloom. 
Everything possible had been done for her, and she had 
seemed to be picking up, but a relapse supervened and 
she died ; and by her death brought us into even 
closer touch with the Serbians than we had been before. 
For nothing could have been finer or more touching 
than the thoughtfulness and sympathy they showed to 
the Scottish women in their bereavement. A short 
service was held in camp early the following morning, 
and afterwards Dr. Bennett and myself left at 8 a.m. and 
took her into Salonika. We travelled in one of the 
Ford ambulances, all we had to spare, Dr. Bennett 
sitting in front with the driver, the coffin draped with a 
Red Cross flag being placed on one of the stretchers 
inside, on which many a wounded Serbian had been 
brought down from the battlefield. I sat alongside 
it. That was one of the saddest journeys I have ever 
made. Death, sharp and sudden, was no new sight to 



190 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



me. Cholera, plague, fever, and famine soon accustom 
the Anglo-Indian official to that. But the conditions 
here were so peculiarly sad and Olive Smith had seemed 
one of the strongest. We buried her in the Serbian 
Section of the Allied Cemetery in a grave forming one of 
a line of Serbian soldiers' graves, fitting spot for one 
who had given her life for their country. Colonel 
Sondermeyer provided a Guard of Honour of Serbian 
soldiers. Three beautiful wreaths with touching in- 
scriptions, one from the 3rd Serbian Army, a second from 
Colonel Sondermeyer himself, the third from the Serbian 
Medical Service, were placed by the staff on the coffin. 
Colonel Sondermeyer, his staff and a number of Serbian 
officers, all in full-dress uniform, were present at the 
funeral, and a touching oration was read in English over 
the coffin by Captain Stephanovitch, a member of the 
staff, being subsequently repeated in Serbian for the 
benefit of the Serbian officers and men present. 

The sentiments expressed in this oration are so 
beautiful that I reproduce it here : — 

" Friends, — It is a sad duty which I have to perform 
to say the last adieu to a generous friend of our people, 
to say it in the names of all those whom she came to 
help and for whom she suffered death. Scarcely known 
to many of us while living, she becomes now and in 
future glorious through her fate. Though many of us 
do not remember even the features of her face, we will 
see now her soul's face in glory and greatness before us. 
Through unselfish devotedness and pity for our pains 
and sufferings, she came to us from her great country, 
she came to soften the hard fate of a small and most 
unhappy people, stricken by God and by men, and she 
shared it unto the last, she lost her most precious life 



OUR SERBIAN FRIENDS 191 



for us, by the same death which every day destroys so 
many of our lives. She came to help us in our struggle 
against misery and death, but the same merciless fate, 
which is not yet satisfied with thousands and thousands 
of our victims, broke her gentle heart too. Instead to 
share our glories, to enjoy with us in our triumphs, she 
shared the sadder part of our great but cruel destiny. 

" At the doors of our country, where's all what is 
greater, and stronger than everyone of us, all what is 
immortal in our single lives*, all what is spiritual in our 
earthly existences, all what means soul, what is love 
and faith, endurance and duty, there are we now 
proving the last hard lesson ; that only through utmost 
suffering and death we can pass to our beloved homes, 
where all our happiness is, where the eternal part of 
our lives dwells. And so the death of the dear friend, 
who died for her sympathy and duty, grows to a mag- 
nificent symbol before us. In helping the other, in 
fulfilling her duty, in offering even her life for pity and 
love, for what is noble and godlike in us, she returns 
now to the eternal home, to the immortal fatherland. 
Among those graves, through which we must pass 
returning to our homes and which for ever will remain 
most dear to our whole nation, are those of people who 
died for pure pity and love to us. With our extreme 
sacrifices, with our many deaths, we Serbians have 
bought your sympathies. And it is now through 
deaths such as this one among many others, that our 
great friends prove their sympathies towards us. And 
this is, as it ever was, the highest stamp, the strongest 
bond between men and men, between nations and 
peoples. So may also this sad death be a noble bond 
more between our two nations, as it is a high mark of 



192 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



sympathy and duty showing to us all the right way to 
eternity. 

" May God be gracious to our dear dead's soul, as 
she was pitiful to our sufferings." 

The following is a transcript of the inscriptions on 
the wreaths : — 

" In memory of the generous English friend who gave 
her life for us. — Serbian Army." 

" To the noble martyr of Samaritan duty. — Colonel 
Sondermeyer, D.M.S." 

" For earthly life's sacrifice eternal life in our souls. — 
Serbian Medical Service." 

Sorrow draws people closer together than happiness 
and a closer bond now existed between the Serbians 
and ourselves. The unit will never forget the exceeding 
kindness and sympathy of the Serbian officers in that 
dark hour. 

Shortly after our return to the camp it was formally 
consecrated after the Serbian fashion with a religious 
ceremony by a Serbian pastor. The Prince Regent, 
accompanied by his brother Prince George and a 
brilliant staff who included Admiral Troubridge, honoured 
the unit by being present. In addition to the unit 
General Wassitch with his staff, Colonel Sondermeyer, 
Director of the Serbian Medical Service, and staff, and 
a number of guests — French and Serbian and British 
officers — were present. The weather was brilliant, and 
the consecration service was conducted in front of the 
mess tent. The priest, with an attendant accolyte with 
a censer, stood in front of a table covered with a white 
cloth on which was set a basin of water, a bunch of 




H.R.H. THE CROWN PRINCE OF SERBIA INSPECTING THE HOSPITAL OF THE S.W.H. 
AT OSTROVO CAM P 



OUR SERBIAN FRIENDS 19S 



hyssop, a cross, and a candle. We were drawn up in 
three sides of a hollow square, the Prince standing in 
the centre, his staff behind him, table and priest being 
on the fourth side under the spreading branches of an 
old and mighty elm tree. The priest commenced by 
lighting the candle and then read in Serbian the con- 
secration service from the well-thumbed and worn pages 
of an old and tattered book. At intervals, he took 
up the hyssop and cross together, dipped them in the 
water and shook it over those nearest to him and to the 
four corners of the compass. After the ceremony the 
Prince Regent made an inspection of the camp, visited 
most of the wards, and talked to many of the patients, 
including some Bulgarians. The Serbians appeared 
to be delighted to see their Prince and talked with him 
without any show of embarrassment. 

At the lunch which followed, the Prince expressed 
the greatest admiration with all he had seen and at 
what he was pleased to term the high efficiency of the 
hospital. 

For our part we were greatly taken with the Prince 
Regent. Quiet and unassuming, one yet felt that he 
had come with the object of seeing for himself what there 
was to be seen and to make himself acquainted with the 
lines upon which the hospital was being run. A total 
absence of " side " is the way an Englishman would 
express the demeanour of the Prince to himself. And 
he believes in the hard life whilst his people are one and 
all living it. He spends most of his time when not 
actually at the front in a little camp composed of a few 
tiny tents away up in the Macedonian mountains not 
far behind the front. The photograph shows practically 
all there is to see of this camp. No luxury there and the 

o 



194 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



surroundings speak for themselves. He is a man this 
Prince — a man after the Britisher's own heart. And 
what a life to live though ! His people scattered and 
undergoing God only knows what hardships. 

Most of the Serbs we lived amongst up here had not 
heard of their own people for two years. Knew not 
whether their wives and families, their mothers and 
fathers, brothers and sisters were alive or dead. Even 
if alive, knew not whether they would ever meet again. 
One of the Serbian ward orderlies, an old man whose 
fighting days were past, one day found his own son in 
one of the wards, brought down wounded from the 
Kajmaktcalan fights. He had not seen him for two 
years, nor knew that he still lived. And the pride of that 
father i n his son when he had recovered him again ! 
He sat by his bed for hours looking- at his face and 
repeating over and over again to all who would listen 
to him, whether they understood or no, what a fine lad 
he was, what a fighter, the best lad and the best fighter 
ever born, and so forth. It was touching and yet fine 
to see the two together. And yet for this one reunion, 
how many thousands are there who will never see their 
loved ones again, who are destined to pass long years 
hoping against hope that they may once again meet 
those who may have been cold in their graves for these 
two years and more ! 

Allusion was made in a previous chapter to the visitors 
who invaded the hospital with eager requests to be 
shown round. Of these the unit saw a good many. 
And were proud to see them, even though it meant 
snatching half-hours from important work in order to 
show them round. 

An ever welcome guest, shall we say because he gave 



OUR SERBIAN FRIENDS 



195 



absolutely no trouble, was General Wassitch, commanding 
the 3rd Serbian Army. A magnificent man, every inch 
a soldier, with a broad outlook on things, and speaking 
some half-dozen languages or more fluently. His head- 
quarters were then at Ostrovo, and he used to come 
over in the morning, take coffee with the Serbian officers 
in their mess, walk over to the wards, and stroll round 
the camp and watch us at work. The soldiers all loved 
him and faces lit up when he entered a ward, sat casually 
down on the edge of a bed and began talking, chaffing 
and laughing with the occupant and his neighbours. 
All over the world the soldier is the same. He will 
worship, and always has worshipped through the ages, 
a commander of this type. But General Wassitch is 
not only a soldier. He is extraordinarily well informed 
on all sorts of social matters, and in discussing many 
British customs and ways of running things he would 
always appear to be turning them over in his mind as if 
trying to appreciate their applicability to the future 
development of Serbia. I happened to have a book of 
my own newly published, dealing with the forestry 
question as it applied to Britain, rather a specialised 
subject it must be admitted. He asked for the loan of 
it, and happening to look through it after its return I 
found that he had marked a number of paragraphs and 
passages the applicability of which could only have been 
apparent to a man who had studied the social life and 
economic questions of a great many other countries 
besides his own. 

A few mornings after I had lent him the book I 
received a message that the General was present in the 
camp and wished to see me. I proceeded to the Serbian 
officers' mess. The General was seated at the mess 



196 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



table with three other officers. I saluted, expecting 
some official order. " Please be seated " and he 
motioned me to a chair and coffee was ordered. I under- 
stood there was to be a pow-wow on some subject. The 
subject was forestry, and I had some of the shrewdest 
questions to answer. The General had regarded certain 
arguments and their deductions from the point of view 
of their applicability to Serbia. He was prepared with 
a brief review of the Serbian forests and their possibilities 
in the future, and asked for an opinion backed by an 
invitation to come and make myself fully acquainted 
with them at the termination of the war. I mention 
the incident as it explains the broad outlook of the man. 
And he was so genial. He caught me in a corner one 
morning painting signboards for the different wards. 
They were badly wanted, as wounded got carried into 
the wrong wards, which led to great confusion. The 
quickest way that morning to get the job done was to 
do it myself. So I was hard at it. Round the corner 
of a tent appeared the General. I had then only met 
him once before. I sprang up and saluted. " Sit down, 
sit down. So you've now added painting to your other 
duties." I explained. And he sat down and talked for 
some time. That was the General. Shortly afterwards 
his army took Kajmaktcalan — a notable feat on that 
front. 

Colonel Sondermeyer and one or more of his staff we 
of course saw on a number of occasions. He ran up in 
a car from Salonika, usually stopped the night, inspected 
our progress, discussed with the C.M.O. any requisites 
we needed, and they were always there — and departed. 
Colonel Strathan, British Medical Liaison Officer with 
the French, who gave us great help, was also a 



OUR SERBIAN FRIENDS 197 



welcome guest and gave us high praise. These, with, 
of course, Colonel Milosavlovitch from Ostrovo, were 
our official inspectors, and we were lucky in them. 

But we had hosts of unofficial ones and they were most 
complimentary to the C.M.O. and her unit. And really 
the camp looked very workmanlike both externally and 
within the wards. They praised that, but only partially 
could they guess at the work which these Scottish women 
were really putting in. French, Russian, Serbian and 
British officers — we had them all in turn, and though 
they endeavoured to hide their polite amazement when 
they found themselves in the midst of a women's unit 
hard at work and obviously practical and efficient, they 
were not at pains to hide their whole-hearted appre- 
ciation at all they were shown. 

Of a different category of visitor were the young 
British subalterns and captains of the M.T. They 
would halt or break down — extraordinary the number 
of cars, motor bikes, etc., that seemed to go wrong in 
the close neighbourhood of the camp — and come in to 
" look up the girls," as they expressed it. A cheery 
crowd they were ; very efficient and tremendously 
cheerful, though I won't say that they were always 
greeted with open arms by the authorities ! One 
evening I remember for the ingenious excuse and pro- 
pitiatory offering brought by three youngsters. They 
turned up at supper time and as it happened there was 
some element of — how shall I put it (not that they would 
care a jot how it was put) — plausibility in their excuse 
for coming. Their unit had moved nearer to the Front 
and they would never be able to join it that night. 
" And we have brought you a goose," said one of the 
youngsters. And he produced the bird. "A wild 



198 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



goose. I got three. I shot them with a rifle as they were 
swimming on a lake." I looked at the goose and burst 
out laughing. If ever I saw a farmyard goose, a bird 
who had probably never flown twenty yards in its life, 
here was one before me. He proceeded with his yarn 
in no way discomfited. His story was amusing. " They 
were swimming on the lake and we stalked them and 
shot them. I hit another but it continued swimming 
some way out." Apparently a car then turned up and 
a Frenchman seeing the bird jumped out with a gun and 
blazed away several rounds at it but failed to kill it, 
the goose still continuing to swim about. The French- 
man got very enraged and thinking he would lose his 
prey, waded into the water up to his armpits and finally 
secured the goose. On his return to shore the youngster 
pointed out that he had hit the bird first and that 
therefore the trophy belonged to him. But the French- 
man knew nothing of the unwritten code of English 
sport and got so excited that the much-embarrassed 
subaltern (" I felt such a fool you know at all this fuss," 
was the way he put it) waived his claim and the French- 
man went off in high content. However the goose, 
presented to Miss Jack (who refused to make any further 
inquiries as to its origin, a practice to which she strictly 
adhered in this land where all, following the Greek 
practice, became strangely acquisitive), procured the 
youngsters a night's lodging. 



CHAPTER XVI 



THE FRENCH FRONT ON THE MONASTIR PLAIN, 
OCTOBER 13tii-15th, 1916 

I had the good fortune to spend three days on the 
Monastir Plain at the period of the first assault of the 
strong Kenali line defending Monastir. The following 
account of these days is taken almost verbatim from the 
notes made during the occurrence of the events narrated. 

October 13th. — I arrived at Verbeni on the Monastir 
plain just behind the French front at 5.20 this evening, 
before nightfall, having ridden the twenty- two miles 
from Ostrovo across the mountains, vid Gornicevo in 
just under the three hours. 

I had come on a visit to a French colonel quartered 
here. This visit had been postponed for various reasons. 
He was at Banitsa when it was first projected but had 
moved up after the fall of Fiorina. I chafed at the 
inevitable delays. I need not have done so, as Dame 
Fortune still had me under her wing. A date was at 
length definitely fixed. Owing to a misunderstanding, 
the horses a friend was lending me had not turned up 
at the Ostrovo camp in the morning, and I did not get 
away from Ostrovo till 2.40. I had been told that the 
journey over the vile mountain road would take five 
to six hours ; and if the rest was as bad as the part I 



200 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



knew, I fully expected to take all of that time. However, 
I was very well mounted, and being a light weight, we 
trotted gaily along, save on the most break-neck parts of 
the road, and had a most enjoyable ride, traversing the 
ground over which the Serbians fought between the 
beginning of September and end of the month. 

We had witnessed from our camp all the chief battles 
fought during the present advance, but I had not yet 
seen one from close up. From something my friend 
had told me before I left Ostrovo to-day, there seemed 
every probability that I was to have this wish gratified 
now ; but to what extent I did not dream when I 
arrived. 

Verbeni is situated to N.E. of Fiorina and a few miles 
south of Kenali. The village consists of mud- walled 
houses with tiled roofs, many of them smashed by shell 
fire. The village itself is embosomed in trees and is 
picturesquely placed in the centre of " the Plain," as 
the Mon astir plateau is called. This plain commences 
below Banitsa, situated in the foot-hills to the south- 
east. To the south the hills hem in the plain. The 
Salonika-Monastir railway, as has been said, after leaving 
Ostrovo, runs up the western edge of the lake of that 
name and shortly afterwards reaches Ekshisu ; it then 
turns north and runs to near Banitsa, where it turns west 
to Fiorina and then north again to Monastir, situated 
in the north-west corner of the plain. North of Monastir 
the hills rise up again, the plain, some eight miles across 
in its broadest part, being also hemmed in by mountains 
to east and west ; its length is about twenty-five to 
thirty miles. Prilep, to N.E. of Monastir, is in the foot- 
hills, although there is a small piece of plateau near this 
town. Fiorina is about one-third of the way up the 



FRENCH FRONT ON MONASTIR PLAIN 201 



plain from its southern end, also situated on the western 
edge, a part of the town being on a low hill. It is a 
most beautiful little town and not very seriously 
damaged by shell fire. 

Verbeni presented a wonderful sight under the 
rays of the setting sun this evening. The village and 
surrounding fields were packed with troops, horses, 
mules, donkeys, parked artillery caissons, ammunition 
and supply carts, and so on. The animals were picketted 
and engaged on their evening meal. The men were 
either eating theirs or standing or sitting about gossiping 
and smoking. Some in great coats with packs on were 
getting ready for departure and were standing about 
near the piled arms. For these were reserves, and were 
moving up nearer to the front to-night in readiness 
for to-morrow, the great day. The scene formed a 
real war picture. One had been living amongst Serbs, 
and though there were Serbs here — this is the French 
front — the soldiery were French poilus and French 
artillerymen in the main, enjoying their leisure. As the 
sun dropped behind the mountains to the west those to 
the east turned a bright crimson, and the dust, rising in 
clouds from the main road close by, full of passing 
troops, took on a pale crimson hue in which trees, men 
and beasts loomed weird and fantastic. The camp fires 
began to burn up a brilliant red. As I watched the 
ever-changing scene the dusk deepened and darkness 
fell. Men and animals faded into blurred masses or 
stood out as black silhouettes as they passed across the 
fires, now dotting all the near foreground of the land- 
scape. It was still quite warm down here in the plain 
and I stood for a long time watching the scene and 
listening to the chattering of the French poilus, gay and 



202 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



light hearted, though many of them will be in the fight 
to-morrow — for there is to be a fight, and a big one. 

Before dinner I went into the colonel's tent and 
found the two colonels seated at a tiny camp table in a 
corner of the large bare tent, which contained only this 
table, two stools, a camp cot and the coloners modest kit 
— a second camp cot was subsequently placed in an oppo- 
site corner for me. The floor was bare earth. The reports 
of the day were being examined. The artillery fire so 
close ahead of us is very heavy and I was informed that 
a great bombardment had been carried out all day 
preparatory to a strong infantry attack to-morrow on the 
Bulgarian lines defending Monastir. This was good news. 

But I must hark back a little. My friend the colonel 
had greeted me warmly on my arrival and congratulated 
me on my luck in arriving at such an opportune moment, 
as I had come just in time to see " something inter- 
esting " ; as he put it. He expressed surprise at my 
having come across the mountain road in so short a 
time, but admitted that he himself had only made the 
journey in a motor car. It's my belief that in a few 
years' time we'll be forgetting how to ride or how to 
estimate distances when off a grand trunk road liberally 
adorned with mile-posts. My friend and the other 
colonel, a senior officer who had arrived on inspection 
duty, both expressed their inability to give a reliable 
estimate of the distance between their present position 
and Ostrovo, the maps being admittedly inaccurate 
and neither of them having done the journey in any 
other manner than in a car with the inevitable stoppages, 
break-downs, cooling, oiling, etc., peculiar to running 
on the Macedonian mountain tracks, than which it 
would be difficult to find worse in the world. On a 



GORNICEVO VILLAGE FROM THE WEST. SERBIAN GRAVES IN THE FOREGROUND 




THE WESTERN END OF BANITSA VILLAGE SOMEWHAT DAMAGED BY GUNFIRE." 
THE MONASTIR PLAIN IS SEEN BEYOND 



FRENCH FRONT ON MONASTIR PLAIN 203 



horse the journey from Ostrovo to Verbeni via Gornicevo 
proved most interesting* After leaving Gornicevo the 
road is of the up-and-down order, and slightly better 
in surface for the eight kilometres to Banitsa. The 
mountain sides are bare, mostly stony or rocky, and 
exhibit the usual type of shallow trench and gun emplace- 
ments varied by the grouse-butt erections. The cover 
the troops could obtain up here when advancing was of 
the meagrest. I had been living within sound of the 
guns for many weeks, so it was not new. But as we 
approached Banitsa and neared the plain, the thunder 
of artillery away to the north increased in volume, and 
it began to become obvious that something big was in 
preparation over there. Banitsa is a pretty village, but 
little damaged by shell fire. It lies tucked away in a 
fold in the hills, the houses scattered in an irregular 
elongate manner with lines and clumps of poplars 
(see figure facing p. 60). Seen against the hill at 
the back with the bright glow of the afternoon light 
upon it, it had a most picturesque appearance. The 
houses are built of stone with tile roofs, as is usual in 
these mountains. Dropping down on the northern side 
of the village, we obtained fine views of the Monastir 
Plain, up which the French advanced. A captive 
sausage balloon hung in the clear atmosphere — over 
Verbeni, the orderly said. On leaving Banitsa the road 
drops sharply, a track of the roughest cobble-stones. 
On reaching the plain we swung to the north and till 
about level with Fiorina, which was away on our left, 
we pushed on rapidly. A parallel road to the west of 
us looked exactly like Piccadilly ; I mean so far as 
its traffic went — endless lines of vehicles of all description 
smothered in clouds of dust. After leaving Fiorina 



204 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



behind us we struck a convoy of Ford vans loaded with 
ammunition, halted and engaged in repairs. Shortly 
after we were picked up by a convoy of heavy French 
lorries, and from thence onwards we rode in sheets of 
dust. Whenever possible I got off the road, which was 
cut to pieces by the traffic, and rode in the fields along- 
side — but the going was not much better here as the 
surface was cut up by artillery wheels and at intervals 
artillery caissons were parked in great camps. In fact 
on one side or the other there were camps of this nature 
all the way, increasing in density as we approached 
Verbeni. We were soon as white with dust as millers — 
and parched to the lips. At a narrow bridge with a 
steep drop to it we got into a bad jam, and some artillery 
horses becoming restive we had a lively five minutes of 
it as none of us could move an inch except those horses. 
We got over the bridge in a solid mass and how it took 
the weight of us I shall never know. On the other side, 
being near the outside, I turned my beast's head and 
putting him at the deep ditch we got into the field, 
but not out of the dust. I was constantly forced back 
on to the road, however, by the lines of old trenches which 
ran right across country at right angles to, and on both 
sides of, the road — Bulgarian trenches taken by the 
French in their advance and reversed. Finally I gave up 
the fields and resigned myself to the transport and dust 
on the road. A lot of guns were going up to the front. 
One battery had a fine specimen of an old French 
colonel, with grey moustache and imperial, blue grey 
tunic, blue breeches with a broad red stripe and black 
top boots, riding at their head. His grim set features 
relaxed into a smile as I came up to him and he returned 
my salute in an old-fashioned courtly manner as I passed 



FRENCH FRONT ON MONASTIR PLAIN 205 



him. His face was as grey as his moustache with dust. 
It required patience and some skilful steering to get 
through the press of animals and men as we neared 
Verbeni. Asking our way, we were told that the house 
we sought was the last in the village on the left hand. 
What a sight that village was ! Shall I ever see the 
like again ? The houses, many of them smashed to 
bits by shell fire, others alongside apparently untouched, 
and the street packed with men and transport of every 
conceivable kind, some still on the move and others 
camped for the time being. The animals at their 
evening meal, the men lolling about smoking and 
gossiping and quite oblivious to the deafening thunder 
of the guns now scarce two miles ahead. At length 
we reached the end of that apparently interminable 
street, were directed down a narrow alley, and came out 
into a little courtyard at one side of which stood a 
double-storied house of fair size and apparently well 
built. At a first glance it appeared to be untouched, 
but on subsequent acquaintance I found it had a great 
shell hole through the tiled roof. Dismounting I went 
inside and opening a door out of the small hall found 
several Serbian officers in a room used apparently as 
an office, living-, and bed-room combined. I was told the 
French colonel was upstairs. These stairs were of 
wood and of the roughest construction ; the ceilings 
and walls of lath and plaster, and full of holes. Bundles 
of maize cobs hung from the rafters. Upstairs I found 
a French colonel, and another French officer in bed, 
down with fever. The colonel was seated at a rough 
wooden table covered with white American oilcloth. 
Two camp chairs, two short wooden forms, and a couple 
of camp cots formed the furniture of this headquarters 



206 



AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



of the French colonel and his staff. The senior officer 
turned out to be also a visitor, and he took me down to 
my friend, who was in a tent pitched in the stable yard 
at the back of the house. The latter, who speaks 
excellent English, knocked off the work he was engaged 
upon and at once ordered tea for me. And it was very 
welcome. Tea over, leaving the two colonels, who were 
deep in code messages and studying plans for to-morrow, 
I went outside, as already detailed, to look about me for 
first impressions before it got dark. The junior colonel 
gave us an excellent, typically French, dinner with a 
menu — fancy a menu at the Front ! It was written on 
a dirty, dog-eared half-sheet of notepaper, and badly 
written at that — but it was a menu, and I have it now as 
a cherished memento. This was, I fancy, the soldier 
chef Albert's own effort and came about in this way. 
The two colonels were poring over a large scale-map in 
the tent by the light of a single dip ; I, with an end of 
candle stuck on the bottom of my cot, was writing up 
my notes. Dinner was announced. En route to the 
house (it was served in the room already described) we 
passed the kitchen. A mud-built erection with holes 
in it for the cooking pots, built up against the wall of 
the house formed the stove, a small table and tiny tent 
for Albert provided the rest of the kit. " Albert," 
called the senior colonel. " Mon Colonel." " What is 
there for dinner ? " Albert detailed his bill of fare with 
gusto. " Bon y bon, Albert," said the colonel. My 
mouth watered and the good Albert sat him down 
and wrote out that menu, I feel sure, in honour of his 
two appreciative guests. To me, after a course of Serbian 
rations, that dinner was the finest feast I had had for 
many a week. I do not want to decry the Serbian 



FRENCH FRONT ON MONASTIR PLAIN 207 



rations, but they are not French cooking. Nor is the 
British for that matter. The only thing I missed was 
cafe noir. You might have safely betted you would have 
ended dinner with it. But you would have lost. The 
colonels drank tea as they said coffee kept them awake ! 
The cognac was, however, very good. The conversation, 
of these two war-worn men was most interesting. I 
learnt a great deal about positions and the French ideas 
about the progress on the various fronts. They appeared 
to be fairly confident that matters were going on all 
right on this one, and that the great attack to take place 
at mid-day to-morrow would be successful if, as they put 
it, " the Bulgars don't get on the run before." But 
it was admitted that the Kenali line was very strong. 
The junior colonel had seen many years' service in 
French Indo-China and the East ; with my own Indian 
experience we had, therefore, much in common. As 
we were smoking after dinner two staff officers came in 
with dispatches — a French, apparently artillery, and 
a Serbian. Both' were big men — above the average in 
height and breadth, and both very spruce. The Serbian 
very polite and speaking French fluently. He read 
out the details of a programme which had been drawn 
up for one of the attacks on October 1st last. The 
colonels smiled as they heard some of the instructions, 
for several of the positions had apparently been taken 
in exactly the opposite manner to that prescribed. The 
Serbian then left, standing stiffly at attention, clicking 
his heels together and saluting in a manner he must have 
learnt in Germany or Austria. The French officer was 
taking the dispositions for the morrow from the senior 
colonel ; my friend outside lighting the Serbian 
down the stairs with a candle-end stuck in a bottle, 



208 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



when a loud detonation sounded without. " An avion 
bomb M said the old colonel with a shrug. The junior 
colonel re-entered smiling, and said, " A bomb and I 
with a lighted candle at a window." The French staff 
officer sprang to shut the wooden shutters in the room 
we were in. " A quoi bon faire " said the old colonel, 
leaning back in his chair and pointing upwards. " They've 
seen our lights through there ages ago." " Through 
there," was the big hole in the tiled roof overhead, 
through which a dark patch of sky could be seen. More 
bombs followed but none so near us as the first. They 
were trying to get the reserves and ammunition, with 
both of which they well knew Verbeni must be packed. 
I had never been bombed before and in trying to analyse 
my feelings, I think one of curiosity was the uppermost. 
As for the other men, they were too used to this kind of 
thing to be affected one way or the other. It was only 
a passing incident to them and not of particular impor- 
tance. We returned to the tent soon afterwards. 
The bombardment is now (10 p.m.) very violent. To 
the north, south-west, and south-east, the flashes and 
flickerings are almost continuous and the detonations 
sound so near that the guns might be firing imme- 
diately outside of our tent. I went and inspected the 
nags before turning in. They are picketted just across 
the stable-yard opposite our tent door in company 
with two of the colonel's — all four in a nice deep bed 
of litter in which three were lying down, snoring 
loudly. The fourth appears to prefer sleeping on his 
feet. 



CHAPTER XVII 



THE FIRST ASSAULT OF THE KENALI LINES, 
OCTOBER 14th, 1916 

I have had my wish to-day and seen a modern battle 
in all its phases, and the following account of the big 
push by the French to take the Brod-Kenali-Medjidli 
line was written down on Hill 629, from which General 
Sarrail and his staff conducted the battle. The knoll 
is just to the west of Sakulevo village. I left Verbeni 
soon after dawn, the two French colonels proceeding to 
the Serbian front. They advised me to go to the French 
front in the plain, as I should see more. As they went 
off in their car the senior colonel said to me, " Don't 
stop in Sakulevo village or you may get a marmite 
(Anglice = coal box) on your head." The colonels were 
very disappointed at not being able to witness the 
French attack, which it was thought would be certain of 
success ; for in the mountains where they were going the 
mist would probably prevent their seeing much. The 
bombardment had been very heavy throughout the night 
and had increased in intensity if possible this morning. 
As I climbed into the saddle I confess to some secret 
qualms as I knew we were to be under shell fire. Accom- 
panied by amounted orderly I rode due north to Sakulevo, 
about two and a half kilometres away and towards the 

p 



210 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



increasing din of the bombardment. My directions 
were simple. Ride down road to village, cross a small 
bridge to left after passing through village, and climb 
up the south side of Hill 629, and there you are. En 
route we passed a stream of laden ambulances going to 
the dressing stations, and empty artillery caissons re- 
turning for ammunition and full ones going in our 
direction, besides stray horsemen on their way to the 
Front. Hill 629 is to be the position of the general staff 
for the day, and they hope to break through the very 
strong position of the Bulgars on the Kenali line. This 
line is said to have been chosen by General Mackensen 
himself and they have been eleven months building it ; 
it is on the plan and scale of those in France, and quite 
unlike the shallow trenches seen on the mountains and 
in the plain up to this place. 

So this is to be a real big push. The orders were that 
the bombardment should be kept up with increasing 
intensity, and that between eleven and twelve noon every 
gun should blaze away to its utmost ; at twelve noon 
the infantry attack will commence. The strength of 
the French here is, I understand, two divisions or there- 
abouts, including both the colonial regiments we saw 
pass the camp at Ostrovo a week or two ago, sup- 
ported by a brigade of Russians. The Serbians are in 
the hills to east. The plain here is somewhere about 
six to eight miles across. With the colonel's warning in 
my memory I did not waste time in the village of Saku- 
levo, crammed as it was with reserves and transport ; 
nor did I leave the horses there although there were 
plenty of trees in the village and outskirts (just the place 
to be shelled, and it was later on). The narrow road to 
the bridge was choked with horse transport, in which 



ASSAULT ON THE MONASTIR LINES 211 



we got involved and had some difficulty in extricating 
ourselves — every one was in a hurry as the spot was 
very unhealthy. Getting clear of the mass and seeing 
an opening I made a dash at the bridge, and just got over 
before a heavy artillery caisson, and proceeded up the 
road which ascends gradually the south slope of the 
small hill — an isolated one in the plain. A few hundred 
yards up this slope I came upon a number of motor 
cars parked and a line of saddle horses held by soldier 
grooms. It looked exactly like a racecourse or better a 
Hunt Race Meet at home. I smiled as the extraordinary 
resemblance struck me, Up above, just below the crest, 
where the hill took a sharp bend to south-west, were a 
number of figures — General Sarrail and his staff. With 
the contradictory opinions of the two colonels in my 
mind (one had suggested that I should go and introduce 
myself to the British officer attached to the staff and 
ask to be allowed to watch the battle, the other telling 
me not to as I might be refused and escorted off the 
scene altogether), I determined to keep a little to the 
east of the staff's position which commanded the plain to 
north, east, and west, and therefore the whole battle- 
field. Dismounting, I directed the orderly to take up his 
position with the rest of the horses, and transferring my 
knapsack, loaded with a good lunch and other parapher- 
nalia, from the nags to my own person, I slowly climbed 
the short space, covered with green turf and quite open, 
save for a small low clump or two of brambles, to the 
crest. The din of the guns here was terrific, and as I 
neared the crest I won't say I felt quite at ease. I took 
up a position about fifty yards distant from the staff, 
and of course in plain view of them and on the same 
level. Depositing my baggage I lay down at a little 



212 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



distance from the north slope and surveyed the scene. 
In front below was a strip of plough rising to a low crest 
line over which the plain beyond appeared. Plough 
and plain were a mass of trenches plainly visible to the 
naked eye. Slightly to the right front, four or five miles 
out in the plain, two white minarets and houses gleaming 
white amongst the trees showed the position of Kenali, 
a small town. At this stage, though being heavily 
shelled, fires had not started to any extent and the town 
was plainly visible, as was Medjidli, a village to the left 
front. I had remained in my position for some time 
when I heard a moaning, whizzing sound coming straight 
towards me. Before I had fully realised what it was a 
shower of mud and a great mass of black and brown 
smoke, for all the world like a giant mushroom, shot up 
in the strip of plough below, and shortly after the sound 
of a loud explosion. It was a marmite. I didn't feel 
at all comfortable and less so when a second followed 
and burst still nearer, a large circular black crater 
appearing at the place of impact of the shells. Five 
more of these shells followed, the direction perfect and 
only requiring a very little more elevation to land 
beautifully on our hill and amongst the general staff. 
They had a funk hole, I had noted, and I was quite 
prepared to make for it if necessary. To quiet my nerves, 
I started making a sketch of the position in front of me. 
Our batteries were firing from just below us and on both 
sides, and by 9.30 Kenali was almost hidden in a pall 
of smoke and the trenches out in the plain were ribbons 
of white smoke. Now at 11.30 the whole of the Kenali 
direction is a uniform dull grey mass of smoke and 
dust from the intense bombardment. The curious 
whizz, whirr and scream of the shells, to unaccustomed 



A BATTERY OK BIG FRENCH GUNS ON THE WAY UP TO COMMENCE THEIR 
ASSAULT ON THE KINALI LINE IN THE MON ASTIR PLAIN 




ASSAULT ON THE MONASTIR LINES 213 



ears, is both deafening and disconcerting, and at first 
it was difficult to make out whether they were coming 
towards one or going away — but it did not take many 
hours to get au fait in this matter. It was the big 
howitzer batteries, and the biggest the French had here, 
I believe, which were drawing the Bulgar fire on us, and 
perhaps also their knowledge of the country, which led 
them to suspect where the G.H.Q. would be. So far 
as the artillery preparation goes the battle is now at its 
most interesting stage. Apparently our big guns have 
silenced those of the Bulgars, for they are no longer 
firing in this direction. Our big ones are pumping 
shells into Kenali and others are shelling the trenches. 
I have moved further forward so that I can now see the 
whole of the line from the mountains to east to those on 
the west, and am in an excellent position to see the 
infantry attack. A big battery to our right front has now 
opened or I have just discovered it. Owing to the great 
noise it is not easy to spdt all our batteries, and the 
Bulgars are replying for all they are worth and do not 
appear to be silenced yet. They are firing shrapnel 
on our trenches on right front. I am now beginning 
to pick up the different sounds of the shells, and shrapnel 
once heard overhead is not likely to be forgotten. Our 
own big batteries below are fine. You hear their shells 
go booming over the ridge and can follow them right 
into Kenali, where they explode in a cloud of smoke and 
a few seconds later the sound of the explosion comes 
back. The trenches in the ploughed field in front are 
full of reserves, and through the glasses the men can be 
seen sitting or standing on the parapets — Frenchmen 
in the blue French kit. It is now seven minutes to 
twelve by my watch and the great moment of the day 



214 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



is approaching. The smoke from bursting shells and 
gas — for I was told they were going to use gas — and dust 
has blotted out all the horizon beyond the ridge of the 
plough and the first line of Bulgar trenches which can 
be occasionally seen, but a part of the big range of 
mountains to N.N.W. and N.W., which had been hidden, 
is now coming into view again. Bombardment is now 
at its height and I have a beastly headache. 

The infantry attack started at 12.5 by my watch, and 
this is what I saw. There is a haze over the mountains 
but here in the plain it is a beautiful sunny day. Over 
the crest in front of us a strip of level country is visible 
with a few solitary elm trees standing here and there 
as seen in hedges at home in England. Not far beyond 
the crest a dark line runs across this strip of level, being 
lost for a bit to the east where the crest rises to hide 
it, but stretching on west right up to the foot of the 
mountains and of course up into them, though unseen 
from here. Above this line hang masses of black, brown 
and light-coloured smoke; white puffs of smoke — shrapnel 
shell — burst above it, and here and there a great mush- 
room cloud of dense smoke betokens the bursting howit- 
zer shells. The dark line is the first line of Bulgarian 
trenches. Soon after 12.5 the smoke cleared to some 
extent from the portion of this line to north, and by 12.25 
the line could be seen to be the centre of a fierce struggle 
between the infantry. To the west and about Medjidli, 
the first line of trenches are still enshrouded in smoke 
and nothing can be made out there. Kenali is hidden 
in a dense pall of smoke into which shell after shell is 
being thrown by the big batteries immediately below us 
and the batteries to our right front. To the north 
the second line of Bulgar trenches are a mass of smoke 



ASSAULT ON THE MONASTIR LINES 215 



and bursting shells, and a barrage is evidently being 
formed there to prevent reserves being sent up to the 
first line. In front of the first line men are dropping 
like the leaves of a forest in autumn, and the attackers 
are evidently not having it all their own way. Bursts of 
rifle fire, the tat-tat of machine guns, trench mortars 
and bombs, all are hard at it, and the noise is 
unceasing and deafening. A desperate struggle is 
evidently taking place at Kenali now at 12.35. An 
aeroplane has been circling overhead all the morning 
and a captive sausage balloon swings in the clear atmo- 
sphere directly behind the general staff. 

An aeroplane has just come in from front and comes 
circling down ; when a few hundred feet only above us 
a round flat white package with a long streamer attached, 
acting like a kite's tail, is dropped. A dispatch from the 
Front ! An orderly runs up, picks it up as it reaches 
the ground and makes it over to a rapidly approaching 
staff officer. In this novel and unromantic fashion 
nowadays do dispatches from the Front and beyond 
the Front reach the general in command, instead of at 
the hands of a smart galloping A.D.C. in full uniform 
and all the panoply and romance of war. I am glad to 
remember that I had ridden to my first view of a battle- 
field in action in the old-fashioned way on a horse in 
the manner of our forefathers. My momentary nervous- 
ness of earlier in the day has quite departed, and I now 
like to hear the shells booming over the countryside 
and to watch the big batteries below at work. To this 
music I enjoyed an excellent luncheon provided by the 
very excellent Albert. 

As I have said, the three main objectives to-day are 
Kenali due north of Sakulevo, Medjidli due west of 



216 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



Kenali, and Brod due east of the latter. Brod is the 
Serbian objective, the other two those of the French 
attack. Neither of the latter have yet been taken, as 
Kenali is still the scene of turmoil, whilst our shells are 
sending up clouds of smoke and dust in front of Medjidli 
at 2.5 p.m. Two Nieuport aeroplanes (so like gigantic 
hornets) have passed overhead, flying over the battle 
area. The guns are now having the game to themselves. 
Kenali is being heavily shelled and is on fire in several 
places. The big batteries are confining their attention 
to this place. The town stands in a long grove of trees 
and is evidently suffering heavily. To west isolated 
farms and the houses in Medjidli are also burning. 
To north the second line of trenches is being heavily 
shelled by our batteries to west of us, and the first line 
trenches due north appear to be being shelled by 
Bulgarians, which would look as if we had made some 
progress here. The amount of ammunition we have 
used in the last thirty-six hours must be enormous, and 
with our poor line of communications this is likely to 
prove serious if we don't break through. Anyway the 
Bulgarians are evidently putting up a stronger resistance 
than was looked for. 

I will describe the battlefield as I now know it, for 
it is an ideally situated one from the spectacular point 
of view and also from that of the General conducting 
operations. The plain, as I have said, varies between 
six to eight miles across, running up into the mountains 
to east and west. Just to N.W. of Sakulevo is a small 
rounded hill rising out of the plain. This is occupied by 
the staff (and myself). Half a dozen telephone wires, 
laid flat on the ground, run from divisional headquarters 
up the hill and disappear into a dug-out immediately 



ASSAULT ON THE MONASTIR LINES 217 



behind the spot occupied by the general staff. From its 
northern edge the hill drops rather sharply to a little 
stream, on the other side of which are a couple of fields 
bounded by the strip of plough-land running east and 
west which rises to the aforementioned low crest we see 
in front of us. The strip of ploughed land ascends to 
the east (on our right front), and on its southern side 
here forms a bluff dropping almost sheer some twenty 
to thirty feet into a narrow ravine. This ravine is the 
bed of a beautiful little stream, the Brod, which, flowing 
from the east, wanders round the foot of the bluff, then 
turns and runs off due south. Beyond the bluff to N.E. 
and E. the Kenali plain stretches away to the foot of the 
mountains (the famous Kajmaktcalan and the Moglena 
range). The stream, chiefly on the southern bank, is 
fringed with willow copses which in places are fifty yards 
or so broad, and hidden in them are many of our batteries. 
It is these batteries which got such a gruelling this 
morning, the Bulgarians having the exact range of the 
copses, and putting in shell after shell during a whole 
half-hour until finally stopped by our heavies, who 
switched off Kenali and on to them till they ceased 
firing ; but not before the Bulgar batteries had put 
some of the French guns out of action. Over the ridge in 
front of us due north stretches the level plain, cultivated 
and with elm trees scattered here and there. Kenali is 
in this plain about four or five miles away, slightly east of 
north, embosomed in trees. To west and east in front 
of Kenali run the first and second line trenches of the 
Bulgarians, with others behind them. The position at 
Kenali is obviously a very strong one and, from what one 
has seen, well furnished with machine guns, etc. The 
trenches run through Medjidli on the west, and on to the 



218 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



mountains on that side, and from Kenali run east across 
the plain and up to Brod in the outer hills of the moun- 
tain ranges. From our hill the whole of the position is 
visible in the form of a panoramic view. A better 
ground for a modern battlefield, from the point of view 
of seeing what is going on, could not be imagined. 

A French aeroplane has just circled gracefully down 
to us and come to earth. The observer climbed out 
and went hurriedly up to the general staff with a verbal 
report. As hurriedly he left. There is a long narrow 
strip of turf looking like the fairway up to a golf green, 
just at bottom of the south side of our knoll, and at the 
lower end of this the aeroplane came down. As soon 
as the observer got out the plane moved slowly up the 
grass strip, for all the world like a great locust walking 
clumsily with wings outstretched (if a locust ever did 
this), turned round near the top, and waited for the 
observer to rejoin her. As soon as he had resumed his 
seat the aeroplane ran clumsily down the green slope, 
rose gracefully into the air, soared upwards in a few 
spirals and made for the Front again. 

3.25 p.m. — Kenali still burning in several places 
and I noticed an hour ago that one of the minarets 
has lost its upper half, shot off by a shell. Medjidli is 
also burning in several places. The battlefield is now 
quite clear with only a slight haze, and everything can 
be plainly seen. The trenches to north are being shelled 
intermittently, first line by Bulgars, second line by us, I 
think. Kenali still being heavily shelled by many of 
our batteries, and also trenches to east of this town, so 
that not much progress has been made there apparently. 
It is a glorious afternoon — an autumnal afternoon in a 
mountainous region. Practically no wind, only a faint 



ASSAULT ON THE MONASTIR LINES 219 



air. A light haze rests on the mountains giving them a 
beautiful colouring of soft lights and shades. The level 
plain country outside the battle area lies bathed in a 
golden glow of sunlight ; the little Brod reflects the soft 
blue of a lovely autumn sky. The air is like champagne. 
It does seem awful — it is awful, that this beautiful 
scene should be given over to carnage by man himself, 
and that man should be at death grips out there in 
the plain, be blown into fragments by shells pitching so 
close to our own position, or be lying wounded and in 
agony in the midst of a hell of his own making all round 
us in such a beautiful setting. The stream down there, 
the little Brod, to a fisherman, is more suggestive of a 
trout rod and a lazy day after trout than to have its 
banks the lurking place of great guns dealing out death 
and destruction. 

It is now 3.35 p.m. and the visible conditions on the 
battlefield very good. From one end of the trenches 
to the other hang columns and clouds of grey, blue, brown 
and black smoke at frequent intervals, the trench lines 
being distinctly visible. There appears to be a lull 
in the attack. The big batteries below us are silent 
and some of the guns are wrapped up in their covers. 
Has Kenali fallen ? 

3.45 p.m. — The big batteries below have ceased 
firing acd are being covered up in their casings, save the 
gun on outside left which ceased firing early this morning 
and appears to have been hit. It is difficult to say what 
is going on round Kenali. All our batteries down by 
the river are hard at it, as also those to the west near the 
foot of the mountains. The river batteries are shelling 
the trenches to east of Kenali, firing diagonally. The 
shells can be followed the whole way, their dull hum and 



220 AT THE SEKBIAN FRONT 



whirr, decreasing in volume, coming back to us for 
several seconds, and then the explosion a second or so 
later. The diagonal firing of these batteries makes them 
less ear-splitting now for us up here. Those trenches 
are evidently not yet taken. These batteries are making 
beautiful shooting. I have now located the area where 
the shells are bursting. They emit a black cloud of 
smoke on exploding and are bursting on the area of 
plain to east and slightly in front of Kenali. The line 
of trenches is almost invisible on the uniform surface 
of the arable land. The shells are bursting close together 
on the line and are searching it very thoroughly and 
methodically. The Bulgarians must be having a thin 
time of it there, unless the trenches are very deep and 
strongly constructed. This line must be four or five 
miles or so from our position. 

4.15 p.m. — Several of the guns of the big batteries 
below us restarted firing soon after four o'clock, and they 
are shelling Kenali again. The shelling of trenches to 
east and of those to extreme west and up to Medjidli 
continues, but the rest of the area is quiet, smoking 
farm homesteads and scattered columns of smoke from 
trench lines being the only evidences of the fierce 
struggle in these parts which took place earlier in the 
day — in the soft sunlight of this fine afternoon they 
present a sad appearance in what is otherwise a peaceful 
scene on this part of the line. All the big guns below 
us are now in action again, save the disabled one, 
pumping in shells into Kenali. All the river batteries 
are shelling the trenches to east, so that it is evident 
that Kenali, Medjidli and trenches to west of latter 
have not yet been taken. There remains only the strip 
of trenches to north of us, of which the first line appears 



ASSAULT ON THE MONASTIR LINES 221 



to have been taken, since they are under Bulgarian 
fire, and perhaps a little piece of trench directly to east of 
and in front of Kenali. There is so much smoke here, 
however, that I am uncertain about this. 

I left my position after writing the above, skirted 
round the south base of the hill and climbed up again to 
west of the general staff's vantage point, as I wanted to 
take a photograph or two. I passed the underground 
telephone exchange, a shell-proof dug-out. As I snapped 
it I heard a bell ring out sharply inside and a junior 
French staff officer ran up and dissappeared into the 
interior. I then strolled round to the west and watched 
the batteries on this side at work. No advance has 
apparently been made here. They are busily engaged 
shelling the Bulgarians' first-line trenches. General 
Sarrail was seated with two or three officers in a little 
recess cut out in the face of the hill just below the crest. 
The rest of the staff — there must have been some thirty 
of them — were standing about in groups conversing or 
scanning the battlefield through glasses and telescopes. 
The one or two Frenchmen I talked with, though 
very grave, were extremely pleasant. General Sarrail 
was evidently on the point of departure. I picked 
up the horses somewhere about five o'clock ; for the 
show, so far as any direct further attack for that day 
went, was evidently over. The ride home in the rays 
of the lengthening sun was made in thick swirls of dust, 
blood-red under the sunset's tints, rising from the mass 
of transport with which the road was choked. Sakulevo 
was crammed with men, horses, mules, donkeys and 
carts of all descriptions, and here and there under the 
trees on either side of the road were parties of wounded, 
many bearing terrible wounds, brought back from that 



222 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



inferno. Amongst them the blacks of the French colonial 
regiments were plentiful, their wounds often frightful, 
only roughly bandaged as they were ; but the faces of 
these men were absolutely expressionless and most of 
them were smoking — all those who had the strength 
to hold a cigarette or pipe between their teeth. I 
dismounted and looked at a number of these poor 
fellows, and did what could be done to ease them. They 
were on their way to the field dressing stations, of which 
there are two between this village and Verbeni. I 
washed out the dust with a cup of tea on arrival at 
Verbeni, and then watched the stream of ammunition 
caissons and carts which were being rushed up to the 
Front. There is a wonderful sunset, but all the country 
to the north is wrapped in misty smoke and the thunder 
of the guns is incessant. The colonels turned up just 
before dark, having seen very little of the Serbian show 
in the mountains. The latter had made some progress, 
but had not taken Brod, so the three objectives have 
failed. The tall Frenchman of the previous night 
arrived, and in the tent by the light of a single candle 
he gave a graphic description of what had taken place 
on the French front. He was in a towering passion. 
The guns he said were insufficient and the wire entangle- 
ments had remained unbroken. No progress had been 
made on the west. Neither Medjidli nor Kenali had 
been taken, and the only progress made was a bit of 
first-line trench taken between Medjidli and Kenali 
and a short bit to east of Kenali, very much what I had 
estimated. The trenches and dug-outs, he said, were 
very deep and strongly built; they had masses of machine 
guns and the wire entanglements had not been smashed 
up. He was straight from the fight and naturally very 



ASSAULT ON THE MONASTIR LINES 223 



full of it. He was interested in the account I gave of 
what I had seen, but thought I was too optimistic in my 
opinions of the advance made. And of course he turned 
out to be correct. Both trenches, dugouts and wire 
would take some smashing, he said, and he did not think 
they had sufficient guns to do it with. In fact, the 
concensus of opinion of these three experts was that 
it had been a very poor day. The Bulgarians are 
putting up a much stiffer fight than was anticipated 
in their fortified line. There were no two opinions, 
however, on the subject of the French infantry. They 
had attacked in the most magnificent fashion and fought 
like tigers. The colonial regiments had come in for a 
lot of the fierce fighting, and one of their companies had 
been cut to pieces, a part of it, as the Frenchmen put 
it, " are still hanging on the wire entanglements." He 
told us that the Russians had now been ordered to take 
up the attack, which was to be continued, and there is 
to be a thorough preparation by the artillery to-night 
before the Russian infantry make their attempt. General 
Sarrail and staff had returned to their headquarters in 
Fiorina and would be on the hill again early to-morrow, 
when they hope to break through. The French officer 
said that throughout the day they were momentarily 
expecting the Bulgarians' big shells to find out the staff, 
and so the funk-hole on the hill might have been easily 
wanted. A quarter of a mile further would have done 
it, and they got a shell or two into Sakulevo as I left it — 
and had more in later. That was my baptism of shell 
fire, and I congratulated myself to-night on my luck. 
Kenali from all accounts now appears to be a very strong 
fortress. It got a gruelling to-day, but not a corner of 
it was taken. I stopped writing this when I heard a 



224 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



voice say, " Is the English officer here ? " I was in the 
tent. We messed in the house. " Yes," I replied. 
He gave the welcome information that dinner was served. 
I was famishing. As I anticipated, dinner to-night was 
not a gay one. The colonels were depressed, but I 
raised a smile when I described how the appearance 
of the hill on my arrival that morning had suggested to 
me an English racecourse. They expressed surprise 
at my enthusiasm, for they had seen so much of this 
sort of thing. " Put yourself in the place of a man who 
has not and wanted to, and you will understand," I 
returned. We discussed many topics, especially life 
after the war. They were pessimistic on this subject, 
pointing out that France would have a hard time in 
front of her, as her wealthy parts were being exploited 
by Germany. After dinner I went out, the road close by 
with its endless stream of transport possessing a great 
fascination. I watched the moonlight playing on the 
little river, the Brod, just across the road, and the lines 
of horse transport moving darkly across its silvery bril- 
liance. A regular war picture this made, such as one sees 
portrayed occasionally. In discussing trenches one of 
the colonels told me that while he was in France a single 
French Army used up 30,000 trees in a day, not parts 
of trees but whole trunks including branches. Mostly 
to go underground, as he put it, and be wasted for ever. 
He wondered where it all came from. He said that 
they are now felling extensively in the French forests, 
which I well knew. 

9.30 p.m. The bombardment has been at its intensest 
again, and now a counter-attack by the Bulgarians, so 
the colonel said, is taking place. The sky to north is 
lit up with red, green and white star shells, and the whole 



ASSAULT ON THE MONASTIR LINES 225 



horizon is a dull red glow. Pandemonium rages once 
more over there. What a hell modern war is ! These 
few smiling fields and mountain slopes now given over 
to the worst form of barbarity imaginable, and man 
using all his best intelligence to kill his fellow-man by 
the most devilish means. And over it all the peaceful 
moonlight of a perfect autumn night. The attack was 
over by 10.15, and now the guns are at it again. The 
Bulgarians are probably back in their old bits of first- 
line trench again, as the colonels agreed it would not be 
possible to hold them. They hope great things of to- 
morrow. 

As we now know, those hopes were to be disappointed. 



>4 



CHAPTER XVIII 



THE BATTLEFIELDS OF FLORINA AND BANITSA 



October 15th. — The gunswere thundering'awayall night, 
making a terrible din. They even woke me up several 
times, soundly as I sleep. One could have sworn they 
were just outside the tent, and varying with the guns 
came the sounds of counter-attacks or the alarms of 
such, when bursts of rifle fire, machine guns, and all 
the usual pandemonium rose on the air, making night 
hideous. Both sides would of course be on the alert 
and probably jumpy after the day they had just passed, 
and the row was understandable. The colonel had been 
too long at the game for the noise to rouse him, and no 
sound save snores came from his corner of the tent. 
This morning there were the usual conflicting rumours 
flying about. Apparently the French and Russians lost 
a bit of trench yesterday on the west between Medjidli 
and the foothills. They had, as the young French 
officer put it, had to " reculer un peu," and the idea is 
that whilst the Bulgarians were counter-attacking to 
get the bit of trench they lost due north, the French and 
Russians were doing ditto to recover their lost ground. 
However, I heard nothing definite on that score before, 
with a heavy heart, I said farewell and left on my return 
to Ostrovo. The main fact is that the positions here 



BATTLEFIELDS OF FLORINA AND BANITSA 227 



are going to give a deal of trouble before they are taken 
— if they can be ever taken by a direct frontal attack — 
which after yesterday's experience the experts here are 
already beginning to entertain doubts. As I have 
already said, dinner last night was rather a depressing 
affair, but as we turned in after the counter-attack to 
the north had died down, my friend cheered up a bit and 
told me several amusing yarns about his experiences in 
the East. He was also rilled with curiosity about big- 
game shooting, and hearing that I had had a good deal 
of it in India and shot tiger, he plied me with questions. 
We got on to this subject after we had blown out our 
single dip, and were lying on our cots in the darkness 
with that appalling din going on outside. It struck me 
afterwards as an extraordinary position to be dis- 
cussing big-game shooting with a Frenchman in a dark 
tent within sound and range of the guns and all the 
serious operations of war going on so near, and both of 
us entirely oblivious to them. 

On the subject of the winter campaign on this front 
both the colonels appeared to be at a loss, as is every- 
one I have discussed the matter with ; and as a trans- 
port officer myself I have naturally interested myself 
in the matter. No one seems to know how this question 
of the transport of ammunition and supplies is to be 
grappled with, once the bad weather sets in, with only 
a single line of railway and the one road, for it amounts 
to this practically for this part of the front. As the 
colonel said, doubling the line is impossible. It could 
be done, or have been done, from Salonika to Vertekop 
at the foot of the mountains and from Ostrovo to 
Fiorina perhaps, though in this lap there is the large 
broken viaduct, blown up by the Bulgarians, near 



228 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



Ekshisu which will take a long time to repair. But the 
portion of the line between Vertekop and Ostrovo is a 
hopeless problem, as all who have been over it will be 
aware. On this length the gradients are appalling — so 
bad that ordinarily they can only run eight trains in the 
twenty-four hours, and they want about eighty ! The 
roads are very bad, sandy or rocky tracks in the moun- 
tains very badly aligned ; and often with long deep sandy 
stretches in the plains very badly cut up and likely to 
become impassable morasses when the rains begin. The 
roads to the different Serbian fronts again are almost 
purely mountain bridle paths which with each mile of 
the advance becomes more difficult to deal with. The 
road to the front of the 3rd Serbian Army I have already 
described. They say that the Bulgarians are in nearly 
the same plight in this respect, though one hears of 
one or two good well-graded and well-constructed roads 
in parts of the country behind their front ; constructed 
under German supervision with Serbian labour ! Some 
think that there will be no winter campaign, but it takes 
both parties to settle that, and the one who is advancing 
will be unlikely to want to retire into winter quarters. 

The senior colonel left in his car for Ostrovo at 7.10 
a.m. He offered me a lift, but with many thanks for 
the kind thought I refused. For one thing, as I explained, 
I had borrowed horses and considered it a duty to my 
friend the lender to remain with them and deliver them 
safely to their owner. For the other I wanted to return 
as I came on a horse in the good old-fashioned way, now 
going out for ever, more's the pity. Also I wanted to 
spend some time on the way back examining more 
closely the trench lines on the plain and up on the 
mountains between Banitsa and Gornicevo, and you 



BATTLEFIELDS OF FLORINA AND BANITSA 229 



cannot do this in a car. The whole atmosphere was 
quivering with the terrific din of the bombardment, now 
in full swing again after the morning breakfast was over, 
as I said good-bye to my French friend, thanking him 
sincerely for his hospitality and the great opportunity 
he had been able to give me, and started back on the 
road to Ostrovo a little before eight. Much would I 
have given to be able to ride again in the opposite 
direction, but it was not to be. The orderly evinced no 
such desire. A smile of pleasure was on his face as we 
set our horses' heads southwards and away from the hell 
behind us. 

The first part of the road was chiefly remarkable for 
the press of ammunition vehicles hurrying up to the 
Front (and they were badly required from all accounts) 
and the convoys of ambulances on their way down. 
There were also numerous parties of head and arm 
wounded " walking cases," on their way to the dressing 
stations after having received first aid behind the 
trenches or in them. All these men were smoking, 
smoking silently, for there was little conversation 
among them. Some of the faces wore a dazed expression, 
as if their owners even now had very little realisation 
of where they were or what they were doing. Others 
were cheerful, obviously glad to be out of the zone of 
death they had left behind them even if but for a short 
time. Soldiers nowadays don't look ahead but live 
entirely in the present, and they are right. The blacks, 
Senegalese, as I noticed yesterday, showed absolutely 
expressionless faces unless one spoke to them, and then 
two great rows of gleaming white teeth would appear 
in an enormous smile, lighting up the whole face for the 
moment. We obtained a fine view of Fiorina in passing 



230 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



this morning as the weather was clear and bright. 
Partly perched on a little hill right under the western 
mountains with its white houses and gleaming minarets 
it occupies a most picturesque situation, and they tell 
me that in peace time it is a very interesting place to 
visit. It is now the headquarters of the General 
Cordonnier, commanding the French on this front, 
and General Sarrail is putting up there during the great 
push now on. 

Save in the attack on Fiorina and one or two other 
instances, the French had a fairly easy job in driving the 
Bulgars back on to the Kenali line. Fortified posts in 
the foothills to the west had to be cleared, which gave 
some trouble. The trench lines running east and west 
across the plain south of the Kenali line are mostly 
shallow affairs, five to six feet deep and very often not 
so much. Here and there the line of a watercourse of 
greater depth was made use of, especially for hiding the 
guns wherever it was not too narrow to make it possible 
to fire them. The plain is slightly undulating in parts, 
especially on the eastern half, and thus gave some pro- 
tection to advancing troops. But the Bulgars do not 
appear to have attempted any serious defences in the 
lower half, contenting themselves with the strong Kenali 
line and the one or more lines behind it as a defence for 
Monastir. Of greater interest than the actual trenches 
were the numerous shallow holes and depressions, dug 
with entrenching tools by the parties, platoons, half 
platoons and so on, advancing to the attack. These 
varied from a tiny heap of soil scratched out with the 
man's short spade as he lay under heavy fire ; deeper 
holes with a good ridge of earth in front (how comfortable 
he must have felt when he had accomplished that !) ; to 



BATTLEFIELDS OF FLORINA AND BANITSA 231 



larger ones where several men had lain down close 
together and joined up their protective ridges. Or in 
stonj areas small piles of stones had been collected by 
the soldier, God knows how or at what risk, when he 
discovered he had no chance of digging owing to the 
rocky nature of the ground. These latter are the 
general rule in the hilly and mountainous country in 
these parts. The gun emplacements were equally 
interesting. In the soft soil of the plain these were 
good and deep in cases where the battery had obviously 
spent some time in the one spot ; or the ravines, as 
already mentioned, had been utilised in turn by both 
infantry and artillery. Cavalry, both Bulgarian and 
French, had also been hidden in these, and animals of all 
kinds. In fact the whole of the Monastir plain behind 
the firing line, as seen this morning, is an education in 
French military tactics — that is so far as they relate to 
an advance in the open under fire from an enemy being 
pressed back. Those little shallow depressions, pits, and 
heaps of stones possessed a great fascination as I rode 
along, and I often left the road and made a deviation out 
into the fields to examine series of them. It was so 
easy to picture the men scattered across the plain, 
exposed to a withering fire, and advancing, ever ad- 
vancing, by this means. Here one would be very 
shallow, hardly commenced, with a few inches of earth 
only scooped out. The maker had ceased suddenly — 
the cause of the cessation only too painfully obvious. 
These were the most pathetic. And pathetic in its way, 
but also full of promise and hope, was the scene I hit 
upon in one of my deviations from the road. I came 
upon it suddenly. Two furrows had been recently driven 
right across these shallow efforts of man to protect himself 



232 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



from man. The Macedonian owner of the field, now ready 
to be ploughed, had paid but slight attention to these sad 
little relics of war, of the conflict which had so recently 
passed over his land, and ploughed through them as he 
had probably ploughed that bit of land at this season 
for years past, regardless of the efforts of his fellow men 
to protect themselves from a pitiless hail of lead. Nor 
was this a solitary instance of this resumption of agri- 
cultural life. Up in the mountains between Banitsa and 
Gornicevo and even on to Ostrovo I noticed that already 
the signs of war are disappearing. All bodies have been 
buried, shell cases and all the debris of the battlefield 
worth collection have been collected, and the aftermath 
of war has to a great degree been removed. The houses, 
mostly built of stones collected in the fields or neigh- 
bouring rocky hillsides, are being repaired or rebuilt in 
the rough fashion usual in these mountains, no mortar 
being used. Artillery fire has left very little of its marks 
up here, the ground being too rocky or stony ; shell 
craters or large holes are practically absent. It will not 
be very long before the only witness of the bitter struggles 
which took place so recently over these mountain tracts 
will be the solitary graves or the tiny graveyards which 
form the last resting-places of those who fell. One felt, in 
noting this rapid recuperation in these fastnesses that there 
is in these a germ of hope for us all — though one realised 
that the more there was to lose, i.e. the greater the 
amount of destruction war could accomplish in a country- 
side, the longer must be the period of recuperation. A 
French colonial regiment was bivouacked alongside the 
road just below Banitsa. They were resting for the day 
after the long and arduous marches up from Salonika. 
A commissariat sergeant was engaged in giving out 



BATTLEFIELDS OF FLOKINA AND BANITSA 233 



stores, his assistants being black-faced curly-headed 
Senegalese, smart-looking youngsters in red fezes. I 
asked permission to take a photograph and the darkies 
smiled all over their faces, showing magnificent sets of 
ivory ; which wide grins were maintained as most 
suitable for reproduction on the film. Continuing up the 
hill I mused on this question of food in war time. There 
is one thing which always possessed a fascination for me 
in reading about military campaigns, and that is the 
glorious uncertainty of the bivouacs of the various units 
engaged upon them. A unit will rough it for days or 
weeks, its food probably short in amount and poor in 
quality, and shaking down on its halts in the most un- 
comfortable surroundings, and then suddenly the fortune 
of war brings it to a town where they can sleep in a room, 
perhaps in a soft bed, even have their meals in a hotel 
and drinks in a cafe amongst a convivial crowd. To 
some extent one has been able to experience these ups 
and downs and glorious uncertainty for oneself out here, 
and been able to realise the extraordinary importance 
food now occupies in the daily life and thoughts. One 
can picture people at home saying — one has said it one- 
self — "He is always talking about food." Man, with 
all his civilisation, is undoubtedly nearer the animal in 
this respect than he suspects. Place him in situations 
where his daily meals are more or less of a toss-up, both 
in quality and amount, and he will soon find that the 
question takes a very prominent position in his thoughts.* 
And every good CO. is well aware that the quality and 
quantity of the food, and regularity of the meals of his 
command bears a direct ratio to the amount of sickness 

* This was written some months before food had become an 
all-absorbing topic at home. 



234 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



experienced in it. When engaged upon the operations 
of war man is also more in need of and dependent upon 
convivial company. So far as making the best of a 
locality they are in from the food point of view, the 
French are better than we are. And this is, I think, 
chiefly due to the fact that they are infinitely better, 
and more varied, cooks. They can turn almost anything 
into an appetising meal — the great secret of comfortable 
campaigning. Of course heavy toll is taken from the 
country side, the wild country side I mean, and great 
destruction to animal life, especially small bird life, is 
committed in this way. It was a common sight to see 
a French car suddenly pull up on the road. A French- 
man with a gun would jump out, run a few paces off 
the road and loose off the gun at small birds he had 
spotted close by. The species of bird mattered nothing. 
With them most are useful for the pot, because they are 
capable of cooking them. Even if we had been willing 
to act in their fashion, we could have made nothing 
appetising out of the spoil. Eternal Irish stew and bully 
form our ark of refuge at the Front, as many hundreds 
of thousands of us know by now. My friend the colonel's 
table was extraordinarily good, and yet he certainly had 
no more, so far as supplies went, than you would find 
at any of our British officers' messes out here — I should 
think considerably less. And certainly the French 
commissariat, from what I was told, does not cost them 
anything like the sum we pay for ours. Of course no 
one bothers, much less complains — grumbles naturally, 
that is our national prerogative when really doing work 
worth the doing. But the contrast between the methods 
of the two nations at the Front in this respect is interesting 
to note. 



BATTLEFIELDS OF FLOKINA AND BANITSA 235 



Banitsa lay bathed in sunlight as we rode through 
it and only the thundering reverberations of the guns 
away to the north was there to remind us that war was 
so near. This as we continued on to Gornicevo sank to 
a dull rumbling noise until we reached the crest of the 
ridge, where it became distinct once more. The campaign 
this year, for these small towns, has been a brief one. 

The long defile was in its usual congested state, a 
convoy of eight-horsed waggons being one of the worst 
places, as I rode down it with the familiar French ex- 
hortation to tired straining beasts, " Allez, allez," 
sounding in my ears. 



CHAPTER XIX 



THE OPERATIONS OF THE ALLIES ON THE WESTERN 
WING IN MACEDONIA, JULY TO NOVEMBER, 1916 

It is proposed in this chapter to describe briefly in 
narrative form the operations of the Allies on the western 
wing in Macedonia between July and November 19th, 
on which date Monastir fell. This will involve some 
slight repetition of events already alluded to at the time 
of their occurrence, but this is unavoidable. The 
account shows the correlated sequence of the operations 
of the advance in their bearing the one to the other. 

The offensive on this front was not commenced by 
the Allies, as had been expected, but by the Bulgars, and 
their advance was doubtless guided by the political 
position. It was almost certain that Roumania was 
about to enter the war on the side of the Allies, and an 
endeavour was made to intimidate her and at the same 
time to reopen communications with Greece. The 
German plan was to attack us on either wing by advancing 
south from Monastir to Fiorina and beyond on the west, 
and from Fort Roupel by the Struma on the east. It 
is the western movement I shall describe. Up to the 
17th August the Bulgarians had not crossed the Greek 
frontier to any extent, being doubtless restrained from 
doing so by the German Emperor and German High 
Command. They had limited their operations to the 



OPERATIONS OF WESTERN ARMIES IN 1916 237 



preparation of trenches and so on, on their side of the 
frontier. Fort Roupel on the east and within the 
Greek frontier was, as we have seen, given to them by 
the Greeks. There had, however, been some good hard 
fighting between the Bulgars and Serbs up in the 
Moglena Montains from the latter part of July onwards. 

The Monastir plain south of Kenali was held by 
the Serbians with very weak forces at this period. 

Before an advance was made the positions were 
therefore as follows (vide map) : — 

At the beginning of August the Bulgarians held the 
Kajmaktcalan crest and several lower spurs to the south 
and the strong Starkov Grob crest to south-west of 
Kajmaktcalan. West of these positions they held the 
lower crest lines down to and through Brod, situated 
in the foothills just above the Monastir plain. Westward 
from Brod they held the strong Brod-Kenali-Medjidli 
line as it came to be known. This line was laid down by 
Mackensen himself and the system of trenches and 
redoubts proved excessively strong, built on the lines 
of those in France and manned with plenty of machine 
guns. The line and one behind it had been built under 
the supervision of German engineers, who had had 
nearly eleven months for the job. To west of Medjidli 
the line swept up into the mountains again to Lake 
Presba, but the forces here on either side were few at 
that time. 

Slightly S.S.E. of Kenali, some seven miles away, lies 
the village of Verbeni and a few miles to S.W. of the 
latter is situated Fiorina. 

At the beginning of August the Serbians had a weak 
division in the Monastir plain and elsewhere, much 
scattered about. The advanced outposts were at 



238 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



Verbeni with the remainder of two or three battalions 
at Fiorina and Banitsa. There was probably another 
battalion at Gornicevo on the mountain track between 
Banitsa and Ostrovo, and the rest of the available troops, 
amounting I believe to a weak brigade, were at Ostrovo. 
It was not thought that the Bulgarians would advance 
from the Kenali line, and the French were occupied in 
getting ready their forces to attack this line. The task 
set the Serbian forces — three armies of two numerically 
weak divisions apiece — was to attack on the line from 
Brod eastward to Kajmaktcalan, and slightly to east of 
latter, Kenali and Kajmaktcalan being the two chief 
objectives because the strongest positions. 

As we know in war it is always the unexpected which 
happens. 

On the 17th August, the Bulgarians suddenly 
advanced in some strength from the Kenali line, drove 
in the outposts from Verbeni and Fiorina, these falling 
back on Banitsa. The whole of the plain was soon in 
Bulgar hands, and the country south towards Kozani, 
and they advanceed up the hills eastwards, taking 
Banitsa and then Gornicevo, eight kilometres beyond 
on the top of a high crest, the Serbians falling 
back to a lower crest immediately above the Lake 
Ostrovo. The Bulgars also advanced up the railway 
line along the west shore of the lake to a position slightly 
to N.W. of Pateli, within a few miles of Ostrovo. Com- 
munication was thus opened up with Greece vid Kozani. 

This was the position of affairs in the latter part of 
August, and there appeared every possibility of Ostrovo 
falling, thus enabling the Bulgars to capture the rest 
of the mountain section of the railway line down to 
Vertekop in the level country below. Had they done 



OPERATIONS OF WESTERN ARMIES IN 1916 239 



this and blown up the viaducts, of which there are a 
number, it is almost certain that they would have stopped 
the projected advance on Monastir last year. 

Reinforcements were sent up and arrived in time to 
hold Ostrovo, which was daily shelled and bombed for 
a fortnight or more. 

Another of the reasons for the Bulgarian advance 
was doubtless military. A considerable increase was 
being made to the western wing of our Macedonian 
armies. French, Russian, and Italian troops were being 
landed in Salonika throughout August, especially the 
latter, whilst British M.T. units and cars were also 
pouring in to run the transport for the Serbians. The 
political reasons have been already discussed. 

About the end of August then the Allies' western 
wing ran from east of Ekshisu railway station up north 
over the mountains east of and below Gornicevo to 
below Starkov Grob, and then east below Kajmaktcalan 
and so on eastwards. 

Towards the end of August the Bulgarian advance 
was held up, and at the beginning of September the Allies 
commenced to move forward in their turn. On the 
flank the French, supported by a part of a brigade of 
Russians, advanced by road and railway (using both the 
Ostrovo and Verria-Kozani roads) and retook Ekshisu, 
not in time, however, to prevent the blowing up of the 
great viaduct which carried the railway beyond Ekshisu 
to Fiorina. The French then swung to the north into 
the southern end of the Monastir plain and retook 
Banitsa, and fighting every yard of the way approached 
the Greek town of Fiorina, situated up against the 
western mountain wall, and about one-third up the 
plain from the south. This town and the railway station 



240 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



were carried by storm after a brilliant assault on Sunday 
and Sunday night of September 18th, the Bulgars being 
driven out in full flight back to their strongly entrenched 
Kenali line situated two-thirds up the plain from 
the south. This capture put an end for the moment 
to the series of operations the French had been under- 
taking. They advanced the few miles to Verbeni and 
then awaited reinforcements of men and guns before 
attempting a frontal attack on the Kenali line. The 
advance resulting in the capture of Fiorina had of course 
been undertaken by the French and Russians in con- 
junction with the Serbians, who were operating in the 
mountains on the right. The Bulgars had been turned 
out of Fiorina exactly a month after they had seized 
it. Monastir, taken by them in December 1915, was 
still in their hands. 

The Serbian movements during this period must now 
be considered, for they were to lead to even greater 
progress than resulted from the capture of Fiorina. 

The first operations confronting the Serbians were 
to push back the Bulgars from the heights in the 
neighbourhood of Ostrovo and clear them from the 
Ostrovo-Banitsa mountain track. This work was 
carried out by the 1st and a portion of the 3rd Serbian 
Armies under Marshal Mishitch and General Wassitch 
respectively. The village of Gornicevo and the crest 
of that mountain E.N.E. of Ostrovo was the first 
objective. These were held by the Bulgars. A line of 
shallow trenches faced with stone parapets just below 
the crest was protected by a formidable wire entangle- 
ment several yards wide, consisting of stout iron 
uprights interwoven with a maze of stout trebled barbed 
wire. The Serbs held a lower crest to the east about 



OPERATIONS OF WESTERN ARMIES IN 1916 241 



three miles nearer Ostrovo. Gornicevo was taken by 
assault on September 12th. 

After the capture of Gornicevo, the Serbians turned 
their attention to the strong positions on Kajmaktcalan 
and Starkov Grob. On the Kajmaktcalan there were 
three main positions to carry with two to three lines 
of trenches in each, the lowest and uppermost being the 
strongest. The lowest was in a small upland valley ; 
the middle one half-way up a series of swelling ridges 
and spurs, the last on the rising plateau which forms 
the summit of the mountain. 

The whole area was above tree limit, a great open 
barren waste of rock with but few soft areas. It was 
only in the latter that any permanent visible marks of 
shell fire, such as craters, etc., were to be seen. The 
great assaults on this position were made between 
September 15th and 30th, the lowest line falling after a 
terrific fight on September 18th, whilst the uppermost 
crest was stormed and carried on September 30th, the 
Bulgars being driven down the steep precipitous slopes 
to the north — probably the best fight the Serbs have 
ever put up. But their native country lay upon that 
crest — a fine incentive to fight. 

Whilst Kajmaktcalan was being fought and won by 
the 3rd Serbian Army, the 1st Army to the west was 
clearing the mountains to the N. and N.W., so that by 
the beginning of October the Serb line was straightened 
out from Kajmaktcalan to Brod due west, where it 
connected with the French line running westward from 
just below Brod through Kenali and Medjidli and up 
into the western mountains to Lake Presba. The line 
therefore now completely fronted the N. and N.W. and 
had lost a dangerous salient. 



242 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



The September victories of the Allies gave them the 
southern part of the Monastir plain and enabled the 
Serbian Army to move down from the captured Kajmakt- 
calan against the Bulgar positions in the Chuke 
mountains. The German-Bulgar line now stretched 
across the Chuke heights with their numerous fortified 
villages to the Cherna river and thence across the plain 
by Brod, Kenali (situated about ten miles to the S.E. of 
Monastir), and Medjidli and up the western mountains 
to Lake Presba, 

A general advance by the Franco-Russian-Serbian 
Armies was now determined upon, the French and 
Russians, strengthened by some French colonial regi- 
ments, making ready for their grand assault on the Kenali 
line, the breaking of which and the less strong one behind 
it would leave the way free to Monastir. These attacks 
took place during October. The Serbians continued 
to make some small progress during the first fortnight 
in the mountains on the right, in the neighbourhood of 
Krusogrod and elsewhere, but the main objective during 
this month was the Kenali line. 

The first assault was made by the French on October 
14th. A grand artillery preparation took place for 
forty-eight hours and at midday the French infantry 
advanced to the attack, which was carried out under 
the personal supervision of General Sarrail himself. 
I had ridden across the mountains the day before via 
Gornicevo, and had the good luck to spend the whole 
day on the small hill from which the General conducted 
the attack and witnessed the whole of the operations. 
The pounding of the guns soon set Kenali, Medjidli and 
Brod burning, as also outlying farms. At midday the 
guns were lifted off the front-line trenches and the 



OPERATIONS OF WESTERN ARMIES IN 1916 243 



French infantry went into the attack. For three and a 
half hours they fought like tigers, the colonial corps 
distinguishing themselves, but only a small portion of 
a first-line trench was captured. The German engineers 
had laid out the position too well, the trenches being 
deep, with redoubts and forts after the pattern on the 
western front, and the artillery was insufficient to smash 
them in. After the failure of the attack the guns again 
took up the matter and several days of incessant 
pounding were followed by a second assault which had 
no better fortune. The Kenali line with the forces at 
the disposal of General Sarrail was impregnable and was 
never taken by frontal attack. 

Three days after the first unsuccessful attack, i.e. 
on October 17th, the Serbs in the hills to the east made 
a fine sudden thrust across the Cherna river, taking by 
assault the villages of Brod, Gardilovo and Veliselo. 
The Bulgars, thoroughly beaten, broke and fled, pursued 
by Serbian cavalry. This sudden advance geographi- 
cally speaking turned the Kenali line, since the Serbs 
in the mountains were now behind the Kenali alignment. 
The distance gained in this movement was unexpected 
even by the Serbians themselves. After the second 
unsuccessful frontal attack on the Kenali line by the 
French and Russians it was perceived that success here 
could only be looked for by outflanking this formidable 
position and the Serbians under Marshal Mishitch, after 
their success on the Cherna, were reinforced by some 
French infantry regiments and heavily supported by 
French artillery, of which some batteries were transferred 
from in front of the Kenali line. Whilst the French 
and Russians, strengthened by some Italians, continued 
to watch the Kenali line — the task of storming the 



244 AT THE SERBIAN FRONT 



Chuke heights and so turning the enemy's left, was 
assigned to the reinforced Serbs. The general advance 
commenced on November 10th. During the four 
following days, November 10th to 14th, a fierce fight took 
place between the Serbs and Bulgars, who had some 
Germans to help them. Foot by foot the Serbs fought, 
carrying village after village and capturing more than 
3000 prisoners and at least thirty guns. By the 
fourteenth they had reached points from which they 
seriously threatened the flank of the Kenali line. 

The opinion of the Serbs on the fighting qualities 
of the Bulgars was that the latter fought fiercely and 
savagely up to a certain point, but under adverse con- 
ditions they were liable to "crack " when a sauve qui pent 
would take place. And the evidence of the Kajmakt- 
calan and the later fights would seem to show that this 
opinion is correct. The outflanking of the Kenali line 
resulted in the withdrawal of the Bulgars from this 
extremely strong position, and on the 15th the French, 
Russians and Italians made a general advance and took 
possession of the Kenali line, capturing Velushina on the 
western heights which turned the position on the enemy's 
right. The latter fell back to their last line on the 
Bistritza, less than four miles from Monastir. This line 
had, however, been already turned by the capture of 
Negochani on the Cherna by the Serbs, and the latter 
were still advancing over the mountain ranges, thus 
threatening the only line open to the Bulgars by which 
to withdraw their guns and transport — the road to 
Prilep situated in the foothills to the N.E. of the 
Monastir plain. 

It was the advance made by the Serbs on the 16th, 
17th, and 18th, which finally settled the fate of Monastir. 



OPERATIONS OF WESTERN ARMIES IN 1916 245 



The capture of Hill 1212 to the east of Monastir sounded 
the death-knell to the hopes of the enemy holding the 
Bistritza line. They counter-attacked desperately to 
retake Hill 1212, but failed, and on the 18th the Serbs 
captured Hill 1378. The Bulgarians retreated towards 
Prilep in complete disorder, having abandoned artillery, 
stores, and losing many men taken prisoners. 

The Allies entered Monastir early on the 19th 
unopposed, the French cavalry getting in on the heels 
of the enemy's rearguard from the south, whilst a 
portion of a Serbian cavalry regiment, after fording a 
river in flood, entered from the west. 

The French infantry went through the town and took 
up lines to the north. The German reinforcements, 
including some of the Prussian Guards which were being 
hurried up to save the town, were too late. 

Monastir had fallen. 

The brave French were the first to affirm that the 
capture of Monastir was primarily due to the gallant 
Serbs. It was the fighting Serbs who stormed dread 
Kajmaktcalan, one of the finest feats of the campaign ; 
it was the Serbs who forced the passage of the Gherna, 
and carried successively the rocky heights of the Chuke 
Mountains. We may all admiringly re-echo the remark 
of the French colonel, among the first to enter the 
town, " It is thanks to the Serbians that we have won 
Monastir." 



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